Yesterday I stopped by the library to pick up the books I’d ordered online and which sat waiting for me on the reserve shelf. One of the things that I love about the Evergreen library is that they actually trust you to walk up to the shelf and take your own books. At my former library in Fort Lauderdale, you had to go to the check-out desk, present your library card, recite the last four digits of your phone number, and only then would the librarian turn around and pull the books you’d ordered from the shelf behind the counter.
There are a few other things I love about my ‘new’ library: they have a coffee machine that provides your choice of a variety of free (!) caffeinated beverages. In my old library you weren’t allowed to bring liquids of any kind into the library, as if they expected patrons to spill said liquids onto the books as they were suddenly and inexplicably caught up in wild spastic fits as they careened among the aisles.
The third thing that I love about my new library is that they have a wall of books near the check out desk where they display ‘staff picks’. From what I’ve learned, patrons actually check out the recommendations with such frequency that the staff have to come up with new recommendations every day. It was here that I found an unexpected treasure: An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg. (This book was recently made into a film starring Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman, and Jennifer Lopez).
I was first drawn to the book because of its cover art, a photo of a pair of antlers intertwined against a dusty blue background. Then I opened the book and read the jacket flap and was piqued by the mention of Wyoming (since I am in a moving frame of mind). I took the book to the ‘Quiet Room,’ a beautiful circular reading room at the back of the library with comfy chairs, a gas fireplace, and a wall of windows that look out at the side of hill filled with blue spruce and rock formations. The sort of room where time stands still. A place you could stay for hours with a good book and not have noticed the passage of time until you looked out the window and noticed the changing light.
I took one of the wing back chairs near the fireplace and opened Mark Spragg’s book and decided to read the first few pages, to give it an audition before I decided whether to add it to the pile of books I was checking out. I knew that I already had two new books to read for next month’s book club meeting and a couple others sitting on my nightstand. In fact, I’d just returned four books that day un-read because I’d simply had to prioritize my time. I wasn’t looking for yet another book to begin and discard.
And then that magical thing happened that only occurs once in a great while, but makes you happy to be a reader. I got drawn in. Like slipping into a warm bath, reading the first few pages of a book that has that something special is one of the great pleasures of life. It is the flow of words that are beautifully crafted and yet seem effortless, without pretension or artifice. It is the start of a story that you feel you already know, characters that are somehow familiar, and yet because you don’t know you can’t wait to read on and watch their world unfold.
This joyful suspension was a feeling I experienced first as a child when I read Beverly Cleary’s delightful Henry Huggins or Ramona books, or Frank L. Baum’s Wizard of Ozseries, and of course Madeline L’Engle’s classic, A Wrinkle in Time, and compelled me to read with unabated appetite. As an adult, finding books that so completely capture my imagination are less frequent, even among some books that I enjoyed for their story. So when I have the pleasure of opening the pages of a book, especially one that I found unexpectedly, and re-discovering the joy of reading, well there’s not much better than that.
Needless to say, I took the book home with me and have continued reading, savoring a chapter at a time. It sits on top of a pile of books in my office and when I need a break from my computer, I go to the reclining chair pick up the book and read some more.
Now it’s your turn: What unexpected book(s) have you become lost in?