Friday, May 13, 2011

Books and Why I Love Them

Four years and one week ago, I started work at HPB.  My first real job was working in a bookstore, my first (and only) business owned was a bookstore, and working with books is my favorite way to make money, especially working with used, old, dusty books. 

These books have stories all their own.  Some hundred year old Bibles arrive at our store with names inscribed inside, gifts from those long dead to others now dead, too.  Some have old photos stuck between the pages, or flowers picked a half century ago and pressed inside.  Some are rare and valuable, with provenance, like those owned by Clara Barton and gifted to a Jones County resident and Red Cross founder. Some are chewed and drooled upon baby books.  We have found many cards and letters inside books, some love letters.  Once, I found a long letter from a husband to his wife:  "I tried everything.  Why don't you love me?"  I tore it up.  The wife had not cared enough to keep it, and the man's secrets should be his own.  Poor guy.

And, then, there is the timing and luck involved in finding the right book at the right moment.  I blogged a few months back about finding "There Are No Accidents" on a clearance shelf in Minnesota, the first place I went to on our Thanksgiving vacation, after wanting to buy a copy in Iowa, and letting that copy go. I was meant to have that book.  It made me think long and hard about why things happen, why I do things, and what the possible meaning could have been in writing into my novel the names and characteristics of many people I did not know at the time of writing, but met later.  My friend Z was especially nailed, down to place of employment and city where his mom lives, maybe why I feel so protective of him, like I made him with words.

So, I meant to write this blog last week, on my actual four year anniversary, about how (most days) I love my job, how I love the books themselves, and love the autonomy of deciding if Tibet goes on the China shelf or in "Other Asian Countries".  (I opt for Other Countries.)  I find it amusing to receive a call, like this morning, from a customer at 8:10 in the morning frantically needing a book on how to make your own chain mail.  At 8:10, in the morning, a pressing need for chain mail. 

But, last week on my four year anniversary, I was distracted.  My earlier blogs about finding love when I wasn't looking for it will not be deleted, just because that love ended sooner and more badly than I imagined.  It was, however, highly distracting all week, as I pondered the whys and wondered what the meaning of it all could have been.  And then... at power hour, when we all work to empty stacks of books into our cubes in record time, I grabbed one off the counter.  It was "Everything Happens For A Reason."  I looked up.  Seriously, God?  Again? 

I took it home, started reading with skepticism.  When the author wrote we all are given hurdles to overcome as a growing experience, I raised my eyebrows.  What about the Holocaust? I wanted to ask the author.  What did those who died learn from that?  On the next page, were the words, "As a Holcaust survivor..."  And my cynicism failed me.  The lessons I can learn from every event which does not seem to go my way, according to this book, can be summed up as opportunities to make us happier people who understand our purpose in the world.  I think I am pretty happy, because I don't need stuff, or people, or events to make me happy.  I try to make others as happy as I am.  But, as for my purpose in the world... 

Well, maybe that is not to be a half of a couple.  I'm starting to think that is not my purpose in the world, as good as I am at being a girlfriend and wife.  Maybe, it's just to make sense of things for myself first, and then to share what I've learned with others.  And I do this best with fiction.  So, maybe the lesson from my recent heartbreak is just to encapsulate all the good from that into fiction, and write my little heart out, and then, not to give up getting my work published. 

I want my dusty books on shelves in HPB one day.  Love to my friends, and thank you, Melinda for lunch today and listening to my theory about this book.  It helped me think through quite a bit. 


  1. This is beautifully written. Have you been with HPB four years already? That time has flown--at least for me. Bookstores and libraries are two of my favorite places on Earth. I am so glad you have the opportunity to work with something you love--books--and with creative people who enjoy them!

  2. Also, good for you for putting Tibet in "Other Countries" and not in the China section.

  3. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
    Love always,