Ah, books.

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“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
― Oscar Wilde

I was just thinking about bookstores and how I love them so and how I wish I owned one so that I had an excuse for being there all day. Growing up, my favorite was an independent children’s-books-only place in Greensboro, NC — I wonder if it is still there? I would save all of my allowance to spend there; the boxes of mildewed books that my mother kept in the attic all these years could stack to the moon and back. The shop was called B. Dolphin, and I think I could still spend my allowance there. To this day I adore the kids’ section of any bookstore best, and the books I foist on my children I want to read myself.

Besides B. Dolphin, there was Atticus Books, which I am fairly sure was crushed by the mighty Barnes and Noble, and the Tattered Cover here in Denver, which is hanging in there somehow. Now even B &N is in danger due to the Kindle revolution. And though I don’t mind my e-books, the real tragedy of paperbacks’ extinction is the death of the bookstore, the experience of swimming in books up to the eyeball, stumbling across unknown authors and being snagged by a book of an unfamiliar genre. Somehow the virtual reality world just can’t compete.

And while I’m at it, I have to mention Signs of Life in Lawrence, KS, which is a paradise of books and art and coffee. There’s a bookstore with the wisdom not to categorize based on the faith or lack of faith of the publisher, knowing the importance of the reaching and the wrestling, not just the arriving.

So today as I finish my Christmas shopping in a bookstore, three cheers for books! Maybe if we all buy as many paper-and-ink tomes as we do plastic-and-metal toys this December, the bookstore itself will be around another year, for another 52 excuses to wander among deep thoughts, big laughs, and beautiful art. Ah, books.

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