By: Taylor Nam
There is a reason why Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks meet at Shop Around the Corner’s Read Aloud Story Hour and then run into each other again and again until they meet (for real and on purpose this time) at Central Park.
There is a reason why Hollywood starlet Julia Roberts falls so hard for travel bookstore owner Hugh Grant that she decides to stay in England “indefinitely” to be with him (and his bookstore).
There is a reason why the Beast gives Belle that glorious library, hoping to win her heart and why Belle then falls dramatically (and suddenly) in love with the Beast, even though he had locked her father up in a dungeon, then locked her up in a bedroom, and finally threw her out of the castle, basically right into a pack of vicious wolves, just because she had wanted to look at a flower. I mean, come on. She’s a girl, a girl who likes pretty things. Give the girl a break. Just a break for goodness sake. But, no-o-o, the Beast had to be all over-the-top and set up a huge fancy dinner and put ribbons in his hair and give her that ridiculous library. Show off. Hopeless romantic. Love him.
Anyway. The reason for Meg and Tom, for Julia and Hugh, for the Beast and Belle. It’s the books. Oh, did you think it was love or some sort of magic like that? I mean, maybe there was love for these characters eventually. And, yes, okay, you’re right. There was some sort of magic, but it wasn’t love, not first of all. First of all, it was the books.
Don’t fight me on this magic thing. I know what I’m talking about. I’ve got street cred, as they say, because I happen to work at a two-story, slightly dusty, packed-full-of-magic bookstore. It’s a great place, truly. Sometimes the back door is open, to let in air that smells like pine needs and puddles. Most of the time, the cash registers work, except for the times when they don’t. Once, the roof leaked, but it was a very small leak in the middle of a very big storm.
Volumes wrapped in cellophane decorate the back wall, books about surfing and Andy Goldsworthy and pretty cabins and tattoos. A long row of shelves housing the newest nonfiction hardcovers split the store right down the middle. Science fiction, psychology, and poetry get their own loft upstairs, closer to the stars as it were. Which I think is appropriate.
And then, there’s a corner of the store punctuated by cardboard cutouts of Percy Jackson and Pete the Cat. That corner is where spiders know how to spell words like terrific, where middle school doesn’t have to be scary and confusing because: look, he and she and they have all gone through it too, where imaginary friends are real and horses can fly and pirates roam the open seas. That corner believes in pajama parties. It believes in Harry Potter Day (mark your calendars for February 4th). It believes in wordless picture books and word-full picture books. It believes that a person and a book can story, that “to story” is something that can happen and something that a person can do, that story-ing is the magic in a book.
So maybe you hate kids’ books. Maybe travel literature or that biography about Alexander Hamilton is your jam. Maybe you’re like my brother who will read six hundred pages about dragons in one day. Or maybe you’re like my boss who has probably read 95% of all mystery books ever published. Or maybe you hate reading. Lots of people do and that’s fine.
People can hate reading. No one can hate books. I’m convinced of that. It’s like someone saying that they hate clean water or that they hate kindness. Books just aren’t things you can hate completely. Also, reading is something you do involuntarily anyway, no matter how much you say you hate it. You read the subject of an email or the signs on the street, so you might as well add something magical to that humdrum. You might as well open a book.
Read a new book. Read an old book. Read to sleep. Read on the bus. Read waiting for your bus. Read waiting for your date. Read to your date. Make your date read to you. If you don’t like reading aloud, don’t make a date at all and stay home and just read to yourself. Get a pizza delivered. Eat the pizza. Treat yourself.
Try a little bit of magic - make friends with a book. Not all stories are made for happy feelings, I’ll give you that, but, then again, not all magic is made for glitter and sparkle. Some of it ends happily ever after. Some of it ends sad yet true. Some of it never ends, sinking and sifting and story-ing on and on. Story on, friends, and trust me on the magic. This is something I know for real.