I love the smell of old books

One of the things that my closest friend and I share is a love of reading.  What we don’t necessarily share is a love of the same books. This resulted in a rather funny public mockery a few months ago when I took a picture of one of her bookcases with all the Twilight series books lined up neatly in the middle of shelf upon shelf of deep and esoteric theology books. (Really? You probably listen to Justin Bieber, too, don’t you?).

So last night I found myself caught up in one of her little schemes that has to do with her work and catechists and such. I am no Martha Stewart, but whatever, we had fun chatting and catching up while doing some simple repetitive work. It gave us a chance to unwind over a cup of coffee (decaf — seriously?) and eventually the talk turned to a book about the Church doctors that she just picked up. It looked amazingly readable to me, especially since I think holy cards are often over my head.

I liked the way the book is set up so that it’s not the same writer but a nice collection of shorter works. Kind of like a survey of the writers for a beginner.  Who knows, I may someday have the attention span to tackle St. Teresa of Avila.We’ve shared books before, introducing each other to texts we wouldn’t ordinarily pick up on our own. Still, I have standards. She can keep Twilight.

This morning when I went through my reading list, I found this article, “In Defense of Old Books, “ and knew I had to read it right away.  The title captured my attention immediately. All of the excitement over the ebook readers may make reading easier and more accessible, but as far as I am concerned, the tactile enjoyment is gone. While most of my books tend to be paperbacks, to hold an old book with its thick hardback cover, yellowing pages, and musty smell is to be in a sort of timeless communion with the work. My favorite bookstore, Tattersall’s, closed because it couldn’t compete with the sterile new superstores, and I miss the creaky floorboards, the overstuffed bookshelves, the secret little finds that had been long forgotten — ready for me to explore.

Naturally, I thought this blog post was going to celebrate that. Instead, it talks of the wisdom of old books and especially, that if we are going to engage in some important conversations today, that it’s best to go to the beginning of those conversations so that we can have the context. If you love books, love C.S. Lewis, even love St. Athanasius, you might want to read what Michael Hyatt has to say about old books.

7 thoughts on “I love the smell of old books

  1. I have not warmed up to the idea of an e-reader myself. It seems a bit of biblio-blasphemy. It reminds me of the demise of the vinyl LP — no more the scratch and pop of a needle in the groove — just the click of a mouse and digital enhancement.

  2. @ Begs You get credit – but Shakespeare, and I quote “That hack!”
    I agree traditional books all the way! The very feel, smell, action of page turning…The very essence of the experience. Sitting with a good book and a cup of coffee on a rainy day – heaven. I’m a gadget geek; however, no Kindle, no way.

  3. I know what you mean. With all the talk about ebooks, I asked some of my friends what they thought. After the big Seth Godin announcement that he wasn’t publishing traditional books anymore and all the Twitter hype about that, I was curious what most people thought. It’s funny but most people I know don’t have an ebook reader, and they said they would prefer to read regular books. I have to admit, I don’t have an ebook reader either (although I really want one and would gladly trade in a few of my paperbacks for a Kindle or iPad). And, the other day I contemplated getting a print version of a blog that has the content available online because, well, it’s easier to hold it in your hands and reference than an online ezine.

    There is something about old books too that just adds weight and value. I have a 30 year old theology book on the liturgy that I bought through a used book store that I love. I won’t mark it up or anything because it’s just so cool that I have it. I want it to remain in pristine condition. So anyway, I guess I know what you mean.

  4. Let the record show… I have no Justin I love my bangs a little too much Beiber.

    I enjoyed the Twilight saga, I love Shakespeare and Dumas you must get over this.

    I appreciated the visit immensely and the help! Especially because I know you eschew that sort of thing. You’re just awesome and I love you.

  5. Oh my… You know what I think is the funny thing? Maybe, just maybe, if you gave the Twilight saga a chance, you might actually enjoy it. It’s not only for girls (my husband introduced me to it), but you ARE one, and… you like pink. So, you just might like it.

    PS: I love the smell of books too. New and old. But old ones remind me of home, of my mom.

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