The Magic of Books

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“What do you seek in these shelves?” -Ajax Penumbra, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Could there be a more magical question from a caretaker of a bookstore? Or a librarian? Not going to lie, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is definitely an ode to the magic and power of books, but is that not a question that we ask ourselves when combing the shelves of a library or bookstore, on the hunt for our next great read? “What am I seeking in these shelves?”

What are we seeking in the quiet spirits of innocuous bounded sheets of paper? I simply adore the way that question is worded and presented. What a much more thought-provoking question than the normal, “What do you want to read?” Because really, ‘what are you seeking’ really gets to the guts of the conundrum. Anytime you are on a quest for that next great book, you are ultimately seeking to receive something from the ink on those off-white bounded pages. Whether you are seeking to escape into the adventure of a hundreds-year long search to reveal the wisdom coded into the book written by the very first human to establish a printing press (Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – I am telling you, this book is such a delight!); or the millions of years of worth of wisdom from the animal kingdom who view, perceive and experience the world it a way beyond human comprehension (An Immense World, by Ed Yong – I have heard great things); or solace from another human who has gone through a similar experience you may currently be moving through and possibly drowning in, in need of another who can comprehend and speak toward your current being. Whatever it may be, at the crux of it, when we read, we are seeking something.

That is why you hear that saying repeated over and over from any bookworm: Books. Are. Magic. There is power in a book. There is a Swedish proverb that says: “In a good book the best is between the lines”. Really, books are just typeset on sheets of paper, glued together to tell a story. It is the power that you gain from that story; the emotion that it draws or drains out of you; the ideas that it shares and sparks; the knowledge from others that you didn’t know existed or that you needed; the new pathways it creates in your mind to begin thinking and seeing things in a fresh way. I could go on and on. Books contain our collective history shared through the eyes of an individual’s experience and way of seeing the world. Individuals that you will probably never meet in real life (they could even be dead!), but who have given and continue to share a piece of themselves to all who pick up their book, leaving an impression, no matter how shallow or deep. Really, if one is seeking immortality, writing a book is the way to go – you are leaving a piece of your self for years to come and touching the lives of people in the future. How crazy is that, when you think about it?!

The next time you walk into that used bookstore, pulsing with unseen energy or wander through the stacks of your local library, the smell of books permeating the air, pause at the door, take it in. Imagine the whispers wafting around you, tickling your fingers, blowing through your hair, asking you with open heart and deep-set interest: “What do you seek in these shelves?” I am certain that there is just that right one, placidly waiting for you, softly calling your name, “I am what you seek”.

-Samantha Hanchett, Marketing + Outreach Coordinator

*Please note that the opinions of “Thoughts” are just that and do not necessarily represent the views of the Thomas County Public Library.


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