There’s a smell when you first walk into a small bookstore that reminds me of the homemade cookies my grandmother never actually used to bake. Ah, but I’ve read about those cookies in so many books. I’ve tasted them, wrapping myself in the loving embrace of sugar and unconditional love that has always existed for me in fiction. Walking into the bookstore is coming home.
All of my crazy relatives are here. My ancestors, the classics: Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Dickens, Twain, standing straight and reliable and in-charge after all this time. The crazy uncles: Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, always ready for a laugh or good scare. My mysterious aunts: Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Patricia Cornwell, leading me with wicked smiles wherever it pleases them. My sisters: Alice Walker, Barbara Kingsolver, Maya Angelou, helping me see into the souls of others, and into my own. Hundreds of family members waiting for my visit.
And there are always new friends to meet. I never know where to start and I sometimes wonder why it should matter, because honestly, my reading pile is already longer than I can expect to get through in my lifetime. But it matters, and I want to read them all. I always find something to sneak to the top of my pile. I hope that never stops.
Small bookstores are usually arranged like a home too. No giant sections with perfectly flushed covers and neon lights here. Instead, rooms to visit, with carefully arranged books organized to catch the eye and imagination. Thoughtful sections containing books that have been read and loved, set aside in careful groups with notes telling me why I will love them too.
As an aspiring writer, I also experience this amazing sense of my own smallness. It’s okay, I like that feeling. It’s like visiting the Grand Canyon. It gives you permission to just get on with being who you are. I am a speck of dust in the canyon, and I am so happy to be here. In many ways this is my church.
There is never enough time to spend here. Or money if I’m being honest. I wander around and back again, touching, reading, smelling. Some of these books I have on my Kindle. Yes, I have a Kindle, and yes, I use it. A lot. But I still enjoy visiting those same books on paper, touching them, taking in the covers and contents all at once in a lovely package. There is nothing like a bookstore, and nothing like the smell and feel of real pages in my hands. Cookies and milk. And I don’t ever want to leave.