I have been called a “purist” many times, and when it comes to books, there’s no exception. My love of books goes back to when I could first grasp one in my hands. As a child, I remember carrying stacks of books around the house, and sitting while flipping through them long before I could actually read the words. I not only enjoyed the pictures, there was more to it than that. I enjoyed the look and feel of the book, the sheen of the pages and gliding my hand across each to feel the softness of the paper.
I remember especially liking the hardcover books (in particular, a big Care Bears book with a yellow cover, which I still have in my possession), savoring the weight and relishing in the noise they made. The act of turning the pages was enough to keep me focused on a book, the slight rustling noise as you make your way to the next page, and the light touch of them as you flip through. And the smell. . . don’t get me started on the smell!
So it’s no wonder, from those early years through the present, books have been a must in my life and have played an important role (self proclaimed bookworm!). I consider books and vinyls necessities. Food, not so much.
As an adult, you’ll find me scouring over books, devouring the words and stories inside them, as well as reveling in the glorious combination that is paper, ink, and cover, and that familiar smell of it all bound together. I can often be found with my nose literally stuck in the pages for the simple unadulterated pleasure of that smell.
My favorites are those books in the library. You know the ones I’m talking about, the slightly older ones with the plastic dust cover permanently attached. Those, by far, have the best smell. The smell of years of sitting in the quiet seclusion that is the library, neighboring and colliding with other books, and the unique smells they have collected from each of their temporary guardians. All of this combines to make the loveliest of scents. Then there is that crinkle that accompanies the first peek inside. As well as each movement, a turned page or the readjustment of your hold on the book, that would cause that marvelous whisper of thin plastic.
However, I don’t discriminate. I will as readily smell paperbacks printed this year as I will a hardbound book printed years ago.
I don’t have an elaborate expansive library in my home, but a few little shelves lined with a variety of books. While I sit in my living room these friends surround me and urge my imagination to create new worlds, and are a reminder why my TV screen is silent and void majority of the time. What I wouldn’t give, though, for bookshelves to the ceiling fully stocked with innumerable books. Remember the library in the Beast’s castle in Beauty and the Beast? That is my dream, my fantasy. . .talk about ecstasy.
The relationship a reader has with a book is an intimate one . It could be a one time encounter, or a lifetime partnership that serves as a basis for decisions and philosophies, but in that period where your hands clasp that bound volume, it is just you and that book. The book that fills your eyes and mind with images and scenes. It introduces you to new personalities, ideas, and conflicts to sift through. It takes you on an escape into a different world or time. It engages your brain and imagination, it expands your knowledge and your thinking ability, it allows you to control your journey from cover to cover, and it feeds a bit of your soul.
It dares you to experience something new through its pages, perhaps allowing you to relive a memory similar to your own or inviting you into an encounter for which you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity. By the last page, you safely step out of that world and back into your own, touched in one way or another, changed a little, and perhaps, with a broadened view of life. But before you put that book aside, go ahead, give it a little sniff.