I had the opportunity to visit Blossoms yesterday, and I grabbed it with both hands. I love visiting this treasure trove of pre-loved books on Church Street, irrespective of whether I plan to buy some books or not. Invariably, I do end up buying at least a couple of books here whenever I visit. The place does that to you!
Yesterday was no different. The OH and I landed at the bookstore, and I soon forgot about him. I got lost in the endless maze of books, ranging from crime and romance to children’s books and non-fiction. I fell in love with the store all over again. I realised that if a book-lover had to define paradise, it would be pretty much like Blossoms. I moved around the staggering shelves very, very carefully, cautious not to knock over the teetering piles of books that lay waiting for homes at every corner. My face broke into a silly grin the moment the smell of books hit my senses. It is like a drug – never fails to uplift me.
Several books called out to me from the shelves – if I didn’t already have a teetering pile of ‘To be read’s back at home, I would have bought them all. I put them all back and went looking for one or two books that I would be able to read immediately – as of 2012, I have initiated this policy of buying only those books that I am going to read within a month’s time. I must say it has helped make my book-buying much more sensible and reasonable than before. I was meandering through the shelves for the umpteenth time when I spotted Marian Keyes’ Watermelon and, close by, Margaret Foster’s The Memory Box. I was thrilled. I knew that I should buy these books – something told me that I would read them immediately and that it was time to try these books out. Ah, the joy of finding a book waiting just for you to take it home! (I know I sound sort of crazy, but a true-blue book-lover would be able to relate to what I am saying, I hope.) I got a copy of Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart for my nephew too.
I found an inscription in the Inkheart book – the name of a school kid and the name of his school. I thought of what he would look like. Would he be a well-behaved, well-read kid or a brash, rude one? Does he love reading fantasy? Would he be a thin, bespectacled boy or a chubby kid? Would he be the odd one out, the shy kid who loved books, or would he be a class favourite, who read the book just because it would be ‘cool’ to do so? How lovely it would be if he and my nephew could be friends and exchange books!
Inscriptions on pre-loved books always make me dream like that – they give me a glimpse of the person/s who has read the book before me, loved and cherished it (hopefully). I am thrilled when I find bookmarks, bits and pieces of paper, flight tickets, subway tickets and such like inside pre-loved books. Not in a voyeuristic sense, of course. It just makes me happy to be able to see a bit of the person who held the book before it came into my hands. I find these inscriptions oh-so-charming, and I have a lovely time trying to imagine these people.
I was delighted to find a label stuck inside Watermelon. It was not the name of the book’s previous owner, or the name of the person who had gifted it to him/her. The label stated that the book was special, as it was a Book Crossing book, and that I could find out about the people who had owned the book before me by visiting the site and entering a certain number printed on it. No prizes for guessing what I did as soon as I reached home! Someone from Waterlooville, UK, owned the book before me and released it in 2010. I have no idea how it reached India, but I will happily spend the rest of the weekend thinking about it.
E-book readers might be convenient and help store thousands of books, but can they give me this magic? Can they make me imagine the lives of those who cherished a particular book before me? Can they give me the thrill of finding a book that has been waiting to come home with me – to an extent they can, but can they give me the joy of physically lifting the book and putting it to my nose to inhale the fragrance of it? Can they give me the joy of winding my way through the narrow aisles of a bookstore, minding my purse and elbows so that I don’t knock anything over? Nah.