• Piyumi Kapugeekiyana

An ode to bookstores



Bookstores have done more for me than I care to admit.


Even after every trend and rage is past, there will be nothing that comes close to the meditative experience of strolling past shelves, studying covers and titles, waiting for a book to call you out of a dreary day.


It's bad form to walk into a bookstore without intention. You know, the kind of soulless visit where you drift among the stacks with your eyes glazed because you've accompanied a bibliophile or are otherwise trying to kill time. It's also hard to recommend the rushed encounter and the incidental visit. Both the beeline to the best-sellers and the power-walk through the aisles in search of stationery are missing the point. Books are meant to be mined. The process of discovery is what makes the find worthwhile.


When I have the time, I like to walk around the same aisles over and over. The first round is often indiscriminate. It's where I allow myself to be momentarily diverted by the tactile exhibition of covers, prolific authors and hot topics. Usually, this flirtation is short-lived and not often fruitful. The second time is to pick up the quirky reads - the ones that make me smirk, the ones that are light and refreshing, the books that promise to entertain but require nothing in return from me. The third pass is judicious. It's to discover the stories that resonate, the books that will be a Kafkaesque axe to the frozen sea within. These are books that I know I will pay for in tears and sighs, so the decision is weighty. And finally, I complete a fourth survey. This is usually to revisit the stories that I picked up and put down - to ensure that no book has been left behind, that really belongs on my bookshelf.


Not all bookstores are equal. Sure, the big-box store will do in a pinch. But for character and transcendence, visit the corner shop with its well-worn shelves and storied nooks. Here, hidden literary gems of every persuasion will rise up to meet you.


I say visit a bookstore while you can. For there is coming a time when the smell of pages and the texture of paper will cease to elicit wonder. A time when we will only wander in digital archives and carry razor-thin tablets filled with the weight of all the world's stories. And while it's better for a story to live in the cloud than to die in a fire, I'd really rather not have to choose.


In the end, the only thing better than visiting a bookstore is reading a book. Just ask a bibliotherapist. But that's an ode for another day.

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©2019 by Piyumi Kapugeekiyana.