On life as a paper pusher

I have long been a very vocal supporter of books (I realize that this is a slightly odd-sounding statement). When I say I support books, I’m talking quite literally about books, and not just reading. I’m all for encouraging people to continue reading actual, physical, paper books. To me, reading on a Kindle is the equivalent of hugging over Skype – there’s too much distance between you and the text.

Reading a book should be a sensory experience. I love the varying textures of paper in different volumes – the soft linen weave of mid-20th century paperbacks versus the shiny, slightly slippery sheets of more modern mass market texts. I really do physically curl up with a book, carve out a burrow under blankets and between pillows.

classic books

My dad bought this copy of The Illustrated Man new when the book was published. If I thumb the pages quickly, I’m surrounded by the unmistakable aroma of my grandparents’ basement that permeates the fibers. And Frankenstein Unbound I bought used a few years ago from one of my favorite treasure troves. The edges are stamped with “Media Center New Castle State Hospital,” which appears to be a now-defunct institution in rural Indiana. I can imagine a patient getting lost in the story of time travel and literary history, escaping to a fantastical world so far removed from his own.

It’s wonderful that a book can have its own story.

This is all a very roundabout way of letting you know that I’ve discovered a used book site that I suspect will soon be a regular destination for me. While I will still be fiercely loyal to my vintage pulp fiction dealer, for slightly newer used books I am absolutely enamored with Thrift Books. Earlier this week a friend suggested to me that I read the Odd Thomas series after we got into a discussion on Dean Koontz. While my beloved pulp site had plenty of Koontz in stock, none of the titles were ones I was searching for.

After stumbling across Thrift Books, I was delighted to discover that they had a very impressive stock list, provided by small bookshops across the country. I filled up my cart with the entire Odd Thomas series (plus the last two William Gibson novels I’ve yet to read) and the whole transaction came out to about $21 with free shipping. I’m eager to find out what personality my books will have when they arrive, whether there’s an old receipt left as a bookmark, a signature in the front cover, or even a lingering hint of perfume.

Books carry lives along with their words; in a way, that makes all collectors historians as well as bookworms. So, I’m going to keep pushing for the proliferation of paper stories, for the preservation of the ritual of reading, even as I carve out a space for myself in the digital world.

6 thoughts on “On life as a paper pusher

    • It has its flaws (namely a lot of ridiculously convenient plot devices) but I like the idea of a fictional character interacting with actual historical figures. The execution isn’t perfect, but the concept is interesting.

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