Ever since grade one, when my teacher told me that "t" says "tuh" and "h" says "huh" and "th" says "thuh", I have loved books and reading. Twice in my life I have been in a geographical place that did not have easy access to books. I thought my heart was going to stop. How can there be anywhere in the world that does not have books? Horrid thought.
Imagine not being able to physically hold a cookbook, a Bible, a spy novel, a board-book for your toddler. Imagine that libraries were only open between 1:00-3:00 on Thursdays. Imagine your local bookstore closing for renovations and re-opening as say, a tree nursery or a car dealership. Imagine waiting at the airport without a book to while away the hours. Imagine the sun sending out a blip that rendered on-line access to books impossible. Imagine being dependent on electricity to read a book. Imagine a holiday without a book on the table beside your iced tea. Imagine a living room beautifully furnished with comfy chairs, a persian rug, a murmuring fireplace and empty bookshelves. Okay, okay, I know, the pictures I'm conjuring up are ugly and untenable.
Why then, did the huge, highly successful bookstore chain Borders just declare bankruptcy? Why are bookstores all over Canada and the U.S. closing their doors? I read a book years ago called The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee and loved it.
When a bookstore opens its doors, the rest of the world enters too, the day’s weather and the day’s news, the streams of customers, and of course the boxes of books and the many other worlds they contain—books of facts and truths, books newly written and those first read centuries before, books of great relevance and of absolute banality. Standing in the middle of this confluence, I can’t help but feel the possibility of the universe unfolding a little, once upon a time.
I don't wish to sound maudlin, but books are just so fundamental to society's health. The author and the reader connect and travel together down a new road. Imaginations are stirred, opinions aired, ideas inspired. The books I've read have changed my life. How else would I have learned the concept of boundaries? how to cook? how to really love my children? the joys of opening my home to hurting people? How else would I have endured those lonely hours in the jungles of Borneo? How would I know God's message of love, forgiveness, redemption, grace? How would I learn the stories of my fellow human beings - heroes who have overcome torture, grief, despair, unimaginable odds with grace and courage? How could I possibly have been the sole medical aid for 200 people with only one day of nurse's training? For years, the book Where There is No Doctor occupied pride of place on my desk together with my Bible.
There was a great article on CNN a couple of days ago about the efforts in Africa to get young women reading. Nigerian publishers and authors are collaborating on books by and for Africans. That encouraged me, as does every customer who walks through our front doors and says, "Oh how I love the House of James!" A young man told me the other day, "Abbotsford wouldn't be Abbotsford without House of James!" Long may we live!