Here I am, once again sitting on the floor of the public library holding my “to read” wish list and surrounded by my purse and my winter jacket. My head is muddled by the several un-shelved books also thrown around me. My task is to decide which books should come home with me today. It’s a major decision after all; as if I were adopting and raising the books, not just taking them home hoping at least one will be my next favorite “read.”
People sidle by me with a jealous look as I try to compact myself into a small clump so they won’t trip over my shoeless feet. How gratifying it is to spot occasional soul mates also strewn on the floor in high anticipation, much like a child in a toy store or a chocoholic in a candy stop.
My history of sprawling on library floors goes back to elementary school and the Rochester Monroe Ave. Branch Library, still in use and still glorious in its cement facade and multi-step entryway, lead–lined glass windows, vaulted ceiling and the imposing (to short stuff like me) central counter. This peculiar behavior continued through high school and into the revered stacks of public and university libraries I have inhabited through the years.
What makes a book appealing? Why select one book and leave other candidates behind? Any analysis has been futile so I seek to understand the thought process for answers. Most often, I arrive armed with a much-edited list of “books to read,” culled from various sources. I trot to the appropriate isle in hot pursuit of the treasures on my list. Perhaps I even find that book but the rich array of its neighbors takes over. I do athletic contortions trying to read the titles on the bottom shelves or tip toeing up high to read the titles on the higher shelves.
I ponder why I look at certain books and leave others untouched? Is it the color of the public end (binding), the cover design, thickness, implied subject matter, a Gestalt moment, a gut feeling or what? I cannot answer. I remain baffled and in awe. I still do not know by what means I decide to pick a book off of the shelf for keeps. I have discussed it with others. Some admit to pursuing only particular authors, genres, subject matter, particular book lengths or paper back versus hardcover. Others join me in awe of the process.
Reflecting further on this “sport” it is no wonder that the library floor has evolved into the “existential sofas” that have sprouted up in coffee houses, small business and big box bookstores and libraries of every sort.
I join the concern that the advent of online books, MP3’s, Ipods and all of that new technology will negate the need to pick up tangible books. Nothing is more satisfying to me than the printed page. Whatever the technology, there will always be the need to pick and choose from the vast list of available books or downloads, pick up the physical book, or highlight and download your choice into your earpiece or text screen to get a high from the great realm of literature.
I’d enjoy feedback on your approach to book selection and where your favorite existential sofa may sit.
Message in a Moment
Ann Carol Goldberg