I used to visit bookstores often. At least once a week. Those were the days when I could find a Barnes and Noble or a Borders store easily in my immediate neighborhood. Within fifteen minutes of driving, I could access at least three Barnes and Noble stores.
Today most bookstores in my neighborhood are gone. In horror, I watched them close one by one. This is probably due to the rise of Amazon. I seldom visit bookstores anymore. I remember, with nostalgia, the days when I went to bookstores just to browse and to discover exciting new titles. It was my way of taking a break in the middle of a work day. Most of the time, I did not have any specific book I wanted to buy. The bookstore was a kind of sanctuary for me. I went there to relax, to be delighted and to seek reprieve from the heaviness of the day.
It is one thing to go to the Amazon website to order a book. Typically, these are the books you need — for work, for information, for school, etc. It is quite another matter to go to a quality bookstore which has books that inspire, excite or make you ponder. Because these books are not for necessity, they are essentially luxury books. They are books that people purchase for their own enjoyment. They take you virtually to another plane. They take you for a spiritual excursion. They wash clean your wariness of the world.
Yesterday, after spending a whole day at the Met with Tony, my friend and tenant, Tony suggested that we visit its gift store. I am glad that I went. As it turned out, it is not just a gift shop. It also has an excellent selection of inspirational and spiritual books. The kind that truly makes me happy. Some of them are pocket books. But don’t underestimate their smallness. Sometimes I think it is their small sizes that does the magic. One of my own books was published as a pocket book, one that people can easily read on the train, on the bus, or on the plane.
I bought three books yesterday. One is Seneca’s How to die: An Ancient Guide to the End of Life. Finding that book was most timely — I will be giving a presentation to a hospice audience soon, but I have never given such a Zen talk. I need to get some ideas. Another book is a pocket book. It is Thomas Merton’s book on Silence and Joy. The third book is a big book. It contains the photos of many of the paintings on display at the Met. It is a perfect book to put on the coffee table in my library.
Thank goodness for the existence of quality bookstores which have good selections. This is something that Amazon cannot compete with.