The Gift of Books

I’ve had a long love affair with books and reading. Not only have I learned most of what I now know from inside their pages, but books have enlarged my vision of the world, created possibilities for my life I never knew existed, provided endless hours of entertainment, and brought me in contact with others who appreciate the magic a good writer is able to weave for a reader. I recently rediscovered the vast (and under-utilized) treasures available in my local public library, and encourage you to do the same.

I just read a wonderful book by Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. (They made a movie out of it, but the book is infinitely better.) It’s a love story, a mystery, a story of flawed people who find ways of surmounting their limitations, and a paean to great books and small book stores along with their ever present challenges. It’s a reaffirmation of the potential for good that exists in the most ordinary of us, and the opportunity to discover titles worthy of your time. Along with similar works such as The Paris Library and The Little Paris Bookshop, it reveals the power that a book can have on changing a life.

Given the growing power of Amazon in the publishing world and the decline of brick and mortar stores, even the prior giant Barnes & Noble, I was delighted to read that Barnes & Noble has recently managed to create a turnaround in its fortunes after being taken over by the hedge fund Elliott Management. In 2019, new CEO James Daunt decided that the business of book stores is to sell books and not unrelated products like batteries or water, and that allowing each store to organize inventories to appeal to its local customers so they can come in and browse, creates a competitive advantage over online outlets. Who knew? Maybe there is hope that those who are not hopelessly lost to television and social media can keep the light of knowledge and the magic of discovery alive longer by discovering the treasures found within the pages of a good book.

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2 Responses to The Gift of Books

  1. I’ve gone too long without completing some good fiction – both reading and writing.

    One of my first jobs was as an assistant manager at B. Dalton. I tell people all the time that it was one of my favorite jobs. In part it had to do with the fact that most of the patrons were readers. Conversations often exposed me to new authors and ideas.

    Regarding libraries. We routinely made visits to the library a routine outing with the kids. There is always something to discover. We are “book geeks.”

    I recall when I took a contract in downtown LA many years ago. The office was in the Biltmore Towers (in the Hotel building). It is across the street from the Central Library. I think it is 8 stories – 7 with books. They have art displays and other media, making a visit there interesting and educational.

    Working across the street I used to take my lunch and just browse floors and topics that I would not normally include in my reading. I took the train to and from work, affording me more reading time in the 7 months of that contract than I’d done in years.

    Maybe I should find another downtown contract and use it as an excuse to allocate appropriate reading time. Hmm…

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