Life-Love 36: Bookstore afternoons

C.S. Lewis once said: “We read to know that we are not alone.” I love bookstores – the smell of books and coffee, a chubby, old cat lying langourously on a shelf, surveying the proceedings. I love the thoughtful look on people’s faces as they browse the shelves, letting their eyes drift across the colourful spines and quietly browsing the minds of the authors. Used bookstores have character – someone has taken the time to think about how to organise the books on the shelves, and you can tell that many of those books have been someone’s old friends. University or college bookstores are especially pleasant – the students chat as they browse, complaining about a challenging class or getting excited about finding more writing from an author they have discussed in class. Sometimes a bookstore has a café inside – one of the best I have experienced is the Harvard Coop, which I discovered on a recent visit. There, you can have a coffee on the second floor and sit on high chairs, overlooking the store. To my right, a young woman was struggling with her econometrics textbook, chewing on her lacquered mechanical pencil’s pink eraser and mumbling to herself. To my left an elderly Asian man in thick plastic rimmed tortoiseshell glasses and an well-tailored brown suit in fine wool with large light-blue squares. His hands shook and he spilled some of his espresso on his “Class of ’55” Harvard tie. He looked up sheepishly as he brushed crumbs from his lapels and commented, in a kindly voice that his hands aren’t as stable as they were when he played badminton with his friends from residence. Then he got up and I spent a few more quiet moments, taking in the scene and sipping my coffee, which felt warm in my hands.

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