I love libraries, those repositories of possibility. I love the opportunities there. I even love the smell of them. I lived in libraries when I was a kid. Had the shelves memorized. Found a refuge there. Found revelatory worlds.
Then I grew up.
The book-love stayed with me. But where it lived changed.
I loved to buy books. I still do. I love having them, carrying them, keeping them as long as I want to. I love knowing that my hands, my eyes are the only ones that have caressed them, my personal, intimate one-on-one relationship with the author. I loved having uninterrupted time to linger over them on the subway rides to an from work in NYC. I love what they mean when I’m finished with them. My apartment in Brooklyn had seven bookcases. Seven. Floor to tall ceiling. All of them were full. I had read every book there.
I was not a hoarder. I was a Reader. A Reader who wrote. Or a Writer who read. Same thing.
When I moved from that Brooklyn apartment after so many years, I thinned the collection. I gave a lot of the books away. Sadly, I admit that I even threw some out. And at a time in which I’m more and more inclined to streamline and simplify, I have a hard time releasing those volumes that have meant so much to me. Giving them away would be like giving away a friend. Or a pet.
As I pack them once again, these books are a mini-movie of my life. A photo-album of what I’ve felt, what I’ve known, what has made me curious, who I’ve been, who I knew. The books I read again and again—and the books I keep for reasons I no longer understand—they mean something. They are memories. Molecules in the head. The evolution of a being. A sampling of ingredients in the recipe of the writer I am. A living thing in the living organism of Me.
That is one of the best things a writer can hope for: to continue to mean something to the person whose head you’ve shared from cover to cover. A moment of we-are-one. An emotion we knew together. A memory we made. A truth we found. An idea we shared.
Writing is not merely the shallow need of wanting to be read. It is the desire to connect. For a minute or for a lifetime. And that is the truth of books; of the writer who reads, and the reader who writes.