The Primordial Pleasure of Books

In our devalued era of Facebook and social media and everything electronic, there is something to be said about the pure, simple pleasure of reading a book.  From the moment you crack the spine until the very last word and period, a book is soothing and fulfilling to the soul.  What does the cover say?  A good cover lures you in – something agents and editors and publishing houses know very well.  Sometimes the covers have praise inside and/or outside, something that is controversial; should a book not stand on its own merit?  But how else can a new writer be taken seriously without an endorsement from a seasoned one?  The font and layout and spacing inside are also up for debate.  Some fonts are easier to read than others, and we have all struggled through cheap paperbacks with no space to breathe between the lines.  And what about chapters?  Line breaks?  The space between sections is equally as important as the words.  And what of the heft of the paper?  Do the pages turn easily, or do they fly up as soon as you let go?  And – my favorite – what about the smell?  That sensual pleasure of putting your nose to the page to inhale the ink and paper, more pleasurable in new books than old?

Finally, what could be more gratifying than turning the pages, holding the weight in your hands, enjoying that primordial pleasure of connecting deeply with words in a most singular way?  Either in a cozy chair in broad daylight, propped up on one hand in bed under a dim light where it feels like the book was written just for you, feeling that continuity with the author even if the book was written months, years, decades, even millennia before.  Reading is a solitary event, though another great pleasure in life is discussing books with others.  So is visiting a bookstore, with rows and rows of tomes that you want to to read but know you will never get to, charming places that make an avid reader feel like a kid in a candy shop.  There is nothing quite like reading a book, and there never will be.  And thank God for that.