Saturday, March 10, 2007

Reminiscing the Bookstore

I love bookstores. Absolutely adore them. New ones are like mysterious strangers. Favourite ones like close family. Even in foreign non-English speaking countries, I would try to search out a bookstore, any bookstore. I don't care how small the shop, how impoverished the collection, how frigid the storekeeper, or that there are no English books at all. I don't even care if it's those local 'fake bookstores' which have more magazines and stationary than books (and even then, most of them are cookbooks and primary and secondary school workbooks and books that make you wonder how they ever saw print). I would go in even knowing full well that I would be disappointed. That's how compulsive I am where bookstores are concerned. Why you may ask? Because you would never what you may find. And I am always looking to find just that very book that would strengthen, fortify and enrich my collection. Or rather that's what say to palliate myself.

The sight of pages bound together between two hard covers is for me an icon of civilization. Just the sight of it makes me feel glad. Safe, almost. Perhaps that is why I look for bookstores whenever and wherever I travel overseas. Finding them is like discovering I share a deep and profound communion with this foreign civilization. Different, but civilization all the same. Books to me are what daffodils are to Wordsworth. Except I wouldn't be wandering lonely as a cloud. I know exactly where my destination lay and would bear down upon it like the wolf on the fold.

The books displayed at the front of the shop is telling of the management, or whoever it is in charge of book purchasing and the display. Smaller and second hand bookstores on balance tend to display more interesting types of books that you may not find at those chain bookstores. That's because the owners and storekeepers tend to actually read the books and know their stuff. The chain bookstores tend to just put the bestsellers, latest releases and promotions (though to be fair, Kinokunya's Gems of the Month recommendations are a genuine attempt to educate and promote the better works on offer). The more unusual though clever the selection displayed, the more interestingly eclectic on offer for sale inside. Those hidden gems that you discover while trying to find your way back down an unintended alley or turning are the best. Purchasing a book from such a bookstore made you feel like a successful explorer, like one that has just discovered a whole new continent.

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