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.