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In an old bookstore

I don’t know, I just fancied it,
And for a few dollars, purchased it.
Now, thumbing through its pages,
The leaves, brimming with thought,
I find myself in another place and time…

In an old bookstore, I picked it out.
But, now, that door is shut.
The shelves are empty.
Some other business there to find,
But no books…

This morning I was thumbing through an old book dating to 1903, a book I purchased randomly in a bookstore some years ago. For no reason in particular, I bought a copy of the sermons of Alexander Maclaren for about five dollars, according to the receipt that I employed as a bookmark many years ago. There is deep poeticism in his words:

As the moon rises slow and silvery, with its broad shield, out of the fluctuations of the ocean, so the one radiant Figure of all-sufficient and immutable Lover and Friend of our souls should rise for us out of the billows of life’s tossing ocean, and come to us across the seas.

Though I live in a city of over a million people, there are few bookstores. Yes, I am an avid Kindle reader, but the printed page holds special appeal. The selection of printed books is equally important. While generally I have an idea about what I’m looking for, I also allow my eyes to wander in a bookstore. Sometimes, I’ll purchase a completely random text, something outside my “comfort zone” — a work of a celebrated atheist, or an avant-garde picture book (perhaps with images that disturb), or a cheap dime novel (perhaps about a bank robber who drove a tank in World War I).

I can peruse a web page (and I find Amazon’s recommendations quite helpful), but there is something organic, something living about a book on a shelf. The loss of bookstores (and libraries with books!) shuts us out of the world of discovery.

© 2019, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • mcfeats September 3, 2019, 8:27 pm

    For a while I thought recommendation algorithms on Amazon and Netflix were helpful. They now annoy me to no end. They stifle adventure, curiosity, and growth. Sometimes I want to find something that breaks from my reading and viewing habits. Bookstores invited change.

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