The topsoil of our personalities is nothing….. Anais Nin


When visitors come through my door I like to see their faces. This is because their faces reflect instantly that like it here and will default to expressions of such delighted confusion that they often cannot answer my greeting ( unless I comment on the weather; this always provokes a mixed response of approval and outrage ).

Then they will begin hunting or browsing and they never complain about the books that are too low to see or too high to reach. I can recognise the start of recognition when they see something beloved. Also the astonishment when a title, long searched for actually turns up.

Children are captured by the moment, and can seize something new and risky, can make fast choices or fast rejections. Adult readers can be more suspicious, not wanting to be ambushed into a dull choice, worrying about books at home still not read and stung uneasily by the words must read on the jackets…

Some are enticed by colours and covers, size or weight. Others go strictly by lists. Some buy piles, some purchase nothing. Some confess to owning a kindle.

Some apologise that the book trade is not what it used to be.

Many read titles aloud, some laugh out loud and some are just silent the whole time. Many tell me who the book is for and why. Many ask me to replace their books because the dog got their only copy, the red wine got their only copy, some prick borrowed and never returned their only copy. Some are retrieving books and stories from their past and making them part of their future. It is fabulous.

Visitors who are clearly fatigued or unwell cannot help it that some of their real self will leak out, shine out, fall out when they speak of the books they are reading or have read and have loved very much. I don’t think they mean for this to happen.

But books read and loved keep themselves anchored to small pools of joy that stay intact, seemingly for ever.

And if layers of time continue to congeal over them, as they will (sediment over sediment), the instant a book is sighted and recognised, the memory is relit, refitted and emerges again, shouldering through the clinging and wearying topsoil that we so unwittingly collect…

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