So, I have a problem. I got the chance to visit a few used bookstores in the last two days. I wanted to find a particular book. I knew I could get it over Amazon or something, but there’s something extra nice about being surrounded by shelves of books, seeing bright new pages bound next to aged brown volumes.
I was a little overwhelmed. In the first shop I filled my arms with differing novels, my eclectic tastes carrying me from a cranny full of classic titles to a nook stuffed with $3 thrillers. It was a small little store. They had a wall devoted to Halloween titles, and I picked up a few interesting short story collections. Anyway, as they tallied up my bill I was horrified to see the cost rise to twice the amount I had allotted for myself.
That was when I realized I had a problem. I wanted to grab a copy of The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis, but after discovering they didn’t have the title, I continued picking up books until I could barely hold onto them anymore. The next shop I visited was much larger, I don’t think I even saw the whole thing. After allowing myself some time to simply wander, I asked an employee regarding the book I was looking for.
She showed me the general area, and after combing the shelves, I spotted the book. This time I was prepared for the temptation, and forced myself to behave. I love bookstores and libraries, to simply amble between shelves stuffed full of stories, to go on without direction or any pressures of time, is a small paradise.
But like all things of this world, imperfect. Time has a way of imposing itself, and no matter where I went, a dreadful ticking clock was there to pull me out of my fantasies. And a little voice seemed to whisper, “You’ll never have enough time to read everything you want to.” I seem to remember part of the benediction to Ecclesiastes:
And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
So, this week I have indulged in a certain carelessness, which, though exciting, has left me with a touch of remorse. I could have gone without buying all those books, it is very possible I may even read half of them. I am glad I found what I was looking for—and happy I discovered three novels by Andrew Klavan for a pittance—but in truth, wisdom is not found in such extravagances, nor is a lasting happiness purchased in such a way. The whole ending of Ecclesiastes goes like this:
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.