Words and treasures

Less than three weeks after our arrival in NZ, we visited the local library and opened an account. Since then, many a Sunday afternoon have been spent at the library with the Wanderlust Juniors, helping them select Thomas the Tank Engine DVDs and Tintin comics, then perusing the shelves for woodworking, mythology, and sailing books for Mr. Wanderlust, and new fiction, non-fiction, and knitting books for me.

No matter where in the world, I feel at home when I step into a library or a quirky, charming bookshop. Some derive pleasure from dipping their hands into containers of beans or lentils; I find it by running the tips of my fingers gently along the spines of books that line never-ending shelves. I pause at a book that feels somehow strangely familiar, and open it to a random middle page only to listen to the whisper of the spine like the lazy creak of a door that has remained shut for much too long. I breathe in the comforting smell of the pages and wonder who has held this book in his or her hands, and how long ago. Did they enjoy reading the words on which my eyes now rest?

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Sometimes, inside a book, I find bookmarks in the form of a bus ticket or a sticky note. I once worked with a woman who complained of always losing her bookmarks. She didn’t bother with them and, instead, heeded the clever advice of her son to use a sticky note. That way, she smiled, it would never fall out of the book. A few years ago, I found a daisy pressed between pages, its dried white petals carefully preserved by a reader who had sat frolicking in the long grass after making daisy chains — or so I like to think. I myself often find maple leaves and flowers pressed by me between the pages of my own books. I never remember the circumstances under which I chose to preserve one leaf over another, but I always try to keep the prettiest ones after assembling a bouquet in the Canadian autumn.

Of course, such gifts are rare. Most often, treasures are presented to me not in the form of bus tickets or dried flowers but in the words and thoughts that take flight with each page that we turn. What a wonderful gift it is, to assist a writer to bring a story to life my merely reading it.

What are a few of your favourite books? What are you reading these days? Please leave a comment below with your recommendations.

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