Saturday, October 19, 2013

Five Senses of a Book Loving Story

Being a librarian makes people think that I like reading, and books. Of course, I do. However, people have know idea how much I indeed love books. Besides the stories, books please all my senses. To the sense of sight, there is the pleasure of looking at the beautiful covers, the fonts, the binding. Then, the sound of the pages turning is a delight to my sense of hearing. Next, there is the unique smell of every book. Lastly, the flavor of the pages on my tongue amazes my sense of taste, while my sense of touch likes to play with the weight of the books and the texture of the paper.

For instance, just to see a beautiful cover is enough to make me run to the book. I’m not ashamed of that and I guess the publishers are right to spend thousands of dollars in cover art. It pays the price! It’s the first thing that attracts people to the books at the bookstore. A good cover gives you a hint of the plot, without spoiling the story. The binding tells you a lot about the price of the book: if it’s a collector’s item or if it’s just a paperback. When I browse its pages, I like to look at the fonts, the special capital letters that, sometimes, start a new chapter, the arrangement of the page numbers. The English edition of 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami, plays with the page numbers. In each page, the number is in a different part: at times on the top, others in the middle or at the bottom. Sometimes it’s reversed: a clever detail that makes sense with the plot.

Also, I like the sound of pages turning; either browsing the book slowly or turning the pages very fast, all at once. The sound of a hard cover closing suddenly can scare me. However, the best sound of a book comes from reading it out loud. I love reading to my son, to his friends and to some of my friends. Reading out loud with my friends it is a special moment.

Even more, how I love the smell of books; it doesn’t matter if they are new or old because each one has its special aroma. At the bookstores, I always try to be very discreet while smelling books. I pretend I’m so farsighted that I have to touch my nose to the pages to be able to read. Oh, how good is the smell of paper! The smell of old books tells many things. The books of a used-book store are capable of telling the personal short stories of its previous owners, if you can smell them. You can tell the book belonged to a cigar smoker or a lady who loved strong perfume.

Furthermore, it’s a pleasant sensation to touch a book. One can feel the detailed work done to the binding, the special textures applied to new editions of art books, or even play with the pop up drawings of children’s books. The quality of paper gives different sensations to one’s fingers. Good paper, that makes books more expensive, is smooth and shine, making turning pages more slippery. Low quality paper, used on paperbacks or pocketbooks, are rough and yellowish, making turning pages easier. However, those books can discolor and even disintegrate over time. I like to pretend I’m an archaeologist when touching such fragile books.

Finally, have you ever tasted a book? I have. If you turn the pages of a book with a slightly wet finger, you can taste it. Of course I would have died if I had done that centuries ago when monks would make copies of secret or dangerous books and poison the pages to stop people from learning the truth. Am I confusing reality with fiction or Umberto Eco was right when he wrote about that in The Name of the Rose? Did the monks really poisoned their books’ copies so people would not share the knowledge obtained through the reading? There are books that one can’t put it down. They are so involving, intriguing, captivating, and consuming that by the end you feel fulfilled as if you had really eaten the book.

When I choose a book, before reading about the plot, I like to try connecting with it at a deeper level. Looking at the covers, smelling its pages, listening to the pages turning and trying to taste a little bit of them. I need to know if they are going to be worth it to take home. After all, loving my books so much, sometimes I even take one, or two, to bed with me.

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