Being human in the 21st century

I think bookstores are the most humane places in the world – that is, they are ripe with sincerity and humanity. People don’t go to bookstores to fulfill any sort of persona, and rarely will you find anyone preoccupied with technology, excepting kindles and nooks and other e-readers, and the smaller the bookstore, the more the humanity. It’s a completely different dimension, and a wonderful one. Certainly, I can vouch for myself when I say I feel like a completely different person when I walk into a bookstore and take my sweet time browsing shelves, skimming blurbs and first pages, sat on my haunches to browse the lowest shelf, flopping onto the ground surrounded by books, and – best of all – completely losing myself to a book that just happened to catch my eye.

I love the sweet guilt of buying more books than you can afford, even though you have ten more unread at home.

But most of all, I think I love the solidarity of being in a bookstore, surrounded by people who love reading as much as you do. To be honest, I never took full advantage of the romanticism of the book shop; I could easily have made friends, or at least great conversation, with other readers.

In a sense, I guess I should feed into my impulses more. I was skimming through a book when I heard an Irishman ask for an Oscar Wilde book. That piqued my interest, naturally – like any sane person, I love Wilde. He clarified further, telling the store clerk he wanted The Picture of Dorian Grey and I internally squealed, and then – to my own surprise – found myself saying, “that’s a gorgeous book.”

He smiled at me, “Yeah, I love it. One of my favorites.”

“Mine too!”

He then said, “Yeah, I wanted it in this cover, it’s lovely-” as he motioned to the leather-bound copies of classics in front of him, “I try to get a copy from wherever I go.”

That took me aback, and made me really, really happy, and in a show of supreme eloquence I said, “Oh, wow.”

“I think I have about ten.”

Now there was a man to admire. “I don’t blame you. It’s kind of like celebrating the novel – my parents do something similar with the books but I’m a student so I don’t quite have that privilege yet.”

Firmly, he said, “You will someday.” “I hope so – Inshallah.”

And that was it. But it touched me. I never had a conversation like that with anyone in a book store; I deeply agree with Lemony Snicket when he infers that people who are well-read are the best kind of people. Certainly, it’s something I take for granted – not consciously, no, I tend to keep company with well-read people, but it only occurs on accident. I never go out of my way to interact with people whom I see reading or overhear at a book shop.

I think this is something I ought to remedy.

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