There is something magical about books.
Some people remember their formative years through school and teachers. Others, through friends and experiences (first kiss, first cigarette, first beer, first Widepread Panic show, etc.).
I, however, trace my own lifeline through books.
As I’ve said before, my love for reading began at age seven with C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. When curious little Lucy wandered into that wardrobe, only to be transported into a new world— a world of magic and beauty and meaning— so did I. And to this very day, with each new book I open, I am again hoping to stumble into a world as affecting as was that first trip to Narnia.
Soon after devouring all of the Chronicles of Narnia, it was off to the bookstore for books like The Trumpet of the Swan and Where the Red Fern Grows.
A couple years later, I was motoring through the entire Nancy Drew series (embarrassing: yes. Referenced in my book: yes).
At this point, I was shifting into middle school, where, suddenly, it became very cool to own and (at least pretend to) read Michael Crichton books. This was pre-Jurassic Park, so the titles we were fawning over included The Andromeda Strain and Congo and Sphere and Rising Sun (I also owned both The Terminal Man and The Great Train Robbery, simply to prove my superior love for books).
It wasn’t long before 9th grade and To Kill A Mockingbird, when I vowed to be like Atticus Finch when I grew up.
And it wasn’t long after that when one’s reading of his own volition became “uncool,” and I, certainly as insecure as the next guy, craved acceptance more than learning, and I abandoned my love of books in order to fit in.
Years then passed without my shadow darkening the doorway of a bookstore. And, ridiculous as it sounds— and though I’m sure I didnt realize it at the time— I think my soul missed it.
It’s as if my spirit knew, from a very young age, that when entering a house of books, it was entering a world that transcends time and prejudice and mortality. All of those books, all of those words— some written by men as far back as thousands of years— still as alive today as when they were first written.
To me, that’s the beauty of bookstores and libraries: with each new trip, there is the chance of stumbling into a world that can change the way you think, can let you know you’re not alone, can inspire you to take on the world.
It’s what happened when I first picked up Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. It’s what happened when I stumbled upon Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. Kidd’s Secret Life of Bees. Lamott’s Traveling Mercies. Miller’s Blue Like Jazz.
And just this weekend, as I stumbled upon a book I’d never heard of, Collum McCann’s Let The Great World Spin, I felt it in my gut: another book had chosen me.
See, that’s my contention: we don’t choose books. They choose us.
So, with my book being released tomorrow, and consequently, available in bookstores everywhere, it is such a humbling, exciting, gratifying thought to consider that maybe, just maybe, somewhere out there, in this big world, some person who’s never met me, never heard of me, might stumble upon my book. And he/she might flip it open, read a few words, begin to put it back down… and then it may happen:
The book might choose them.
It is a magical thing, the way books choose us.
And, for someone who’s life has been measured by books, it is dizzying to consider that someday, my book might be a small part of the timeline that helps measure someone else’s.