A Lovely Sort of Chaos
Books upon books, and so many people in the bookstore
The day after Christmas I was in Barnes & Noble with my daughters.
I had convinced Bailey to stay with us one more day after Christmas, that I would drive her the five plus hours round trip home. Her husband had to return to work on the 26th so they planned to leave on Christmas afternoon, but I was greedy for more time with her, and I got my way.
I have to be careful as a mother of adults, and now a mother-in-law, and please believe that I am filtering probably 65% of my thoughts and not saying all of them. I am. But I offered to drive her and she also wanted to stay, so she stayed and her husband drove home alone. The next day Shelby joined us for a walk and we convinced her to make the drive north with us.
It’s been years since I’ve set foot in a B&N, the closest one being two hours away. The three of us all have an affinity for books and paper and pens, and since Shelby and I still had to make the drive home, I set a timer. Fifteen minutes, I said, and the girls groaned or laughed or rolled their eyes—whatever the kids are doing these days. I have always been a slave to a timer, but I knew we could spend all our time in the bookstore and we had other things planned that day.
Barnes & Noble was fun and shiny, but what I really love is a small, independent bookstore, with ancient potted plants in the corners and overflowing piles of books stacked on the floors, one that serves good coffee and sells plenty of used books alongside the new releases. I love the smell of old books and the crinkle of their pages. I love seeing new releases and knowing that the world will never truly tire of fresh words on old topics. I love the instrumental music and cozy vibe in a small bookstore.
Come to think of it, the room I’m writing in now is much like my dream bookstore, minus the selling of books, plus two snoring dogs.
I love this room and now that we are done with our homeschooling journey, it is completely mine. This is our old “school room”, the grand central location of all our homeschooling books and plans. Only our youngest actually did his schoolwork in here—the other kids spread out at the kitchen table, the living room, their bedrooms—but I did all my studying and prep work for tutoring here and stacked many books for my kids on the shelves and counter. Now, the bookstacks are all mine and wholly obnoxious. There is a lovely sort of chaos in here.
Are you reading all those books? one of the kids asked over the holiday weekend. There are probably 20 or more books piled on and around my desk, and toppled onto the floor, in addition to the wall of shelved books. I like having everything close at hand. I reference most of the books piled around me regularly, but I probably don’t need all of them out at once.
There are 56 books, notebooks, and literary magazines out, actually. I just counted and you should never believe me when I estimate something. Probably and maybe are some of my favorite words, and I fully realize my inability to guess accurately. The problem is much worse than I hypothesized.
When we walked into the bookstore, the first thing we noticed was the line of people. If we stuck to our timer and spent only 15 minutes looking around and choosing books, we would be spending another ten or so1 minutes in the checkout line. People were zigzagged through Fiction all the way back to Toys & Games, and I was surprised by this—so many people here, the day after Christmas! It was a lovely sort of chaos. I saw person after person clutching a stack of books in their arms, ready to pay real money, or someone else’s money they were gifted for Christmas, for an author’s hard work.
I am a little bit of a Country Mouse in the Big City, and like I said, it’s been years since I’ve been in a B&N. But to see people sitting in Non-Fiction reading a book in a comfy chair, others asking associates for a certain title, teenagers excitedly going to their friends to show them their finds—I felt a little bit of hope well up in me. Sometimes I am cynical but other times I can be just this simple:
people are reading, and that gives me hope for the world.
Were they all choosing “wholesome” books? Were any of the books glorifying God? Did the Religion section have anything more than feel good/do good/be good books and woowoo titles?
Those answers are mostly “no”, but my ideas and beliefs about what we read has expanded so much in the last twenty years, that I can still feel hopeful just by seeing people read. The experience of choosing a book, reading it, digesting or disregarding it, requires thought; I am encouraged to see people thinking.
Louis L’Amour said, “Books are the building blocks of civilization, for without the written word, a man knows nothing beyond what occurs during his own brief years and, perhaps, in a few tales his parents tell him.”
He said this in his memoir, Education of a Wandering Man, a book I recommend if you are interested in education and the work books do in us. I pulled it from my shelf to find the quote and now there are 57 books piled nearby. I left it out because there are just so many good things underlined in it.
At Barnes & Noble I found two titles from my TBR list right away. I knew I could get them cheaper, but in the spirit of Christmas and in solidarity with the long line of hopeful readers, I paid full price for them. There were so many promising books, gorgeous stationery sets, enticing calendars and planners, but I walked away with just two books2, in less than fifteen minutes.
And I walked away hopeful, which is worth more than a full price hardcover.
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“or so” means probably, maybe