If you want to get the most out of a bookstore there is one rule to follow: enter through its doors blindly. As in, without reason. Mindlessly. No determination needed. In fact, leave all thought in a bin by the door, along with the umbrellas. When you enter, reckless, you will find yourself thumbing through books you’ve longed ignored, who grab your attention. They speak to you. Now you are impulsive. You find yourself, strangely, thumbing through a poet’s book, eyes landing on words: springy, morning air, rebels, smoke. Now you are lost in a memoir, where you might find strength, empathy. Stock up on page turners, new authors discovered because covers entice. Don’t question your impulsivity, or the titles in your stack, or the way they make you feel when you touch their spines. Why consider the cost when you never wonder how much is spent on lattes or lunches out? Just take your stack, tuck them into your oversized leather bag, walk proudly by the umbrellas, but don’t forget to collect your thoughts! Once outside you will need them. Go read! From the seat of your old car, under the bare tree in a ray of sunshine, stuffed at a small table at a crowded, loud cafe, or while perched on the top step of an old school building. Read as you ignore the slamming of car doors, children calling out to parents, to the beating of your own heart. Nothing matters, for you have blindly entered the pages of another world–you have begun to run away.
When I was a child my parents had the brilliant idea of taking my brother and I to the local bookshop after church each Sunday. We didn’t have a lot of cash, but what we did have my parents were willing to spend on a book each–no matter the cost. Once through the doors of our local independent bookshop, our family of four would disperse: Mom hid in fiction, Dad lost in Sci-Fi, brother on the hunt for books to make him laugh while I gorged on classical literature; These were the happiest days of my young life.
As I look back on these memories I am thankful to have been born into a family of readers. Books were everywhere in our house: the landing of our stairs, piled on bookshelves, and on the back of the toilet. Books arrived by mail via book clubs, passed amongst aunts and uncles with powerful endorsements, borrowed from our library. Once in our possession we’d retreat to our favorite reading spots. My parents favored their brown floral sofa, each tucked into their respective corners of the sofa, table lamps casting warmth onto pages, my brother at their feet. Me in the chair opposite, legs dangling over the arm while I chewed my hair. We didn’t often read together as a family, only when the mood struck us individually to collect ourselves and our books did we end up in the same room reading together.
Books have an incredible power to bring us together. Doesn’t matter what types of books you like to read. The mutual enjoyment of reading is a bridge-builder. When I sit beside someone reading a book on a train or plane I instantly feel a connection. Too often I ask what they are reading, would they recommend their book and why. In a way my curiosity is a form of Book Store Sunday, where there are never-ending possibilities for running away, growing empathy and understanding of the world.