Recently, sitting at this computer, I turned to the bookshelf behind me and discovered the autobiographical work “The Confessions of St. Augustine.” (The painters had shuffled the books in the library when repainting recently.) It was a 1991 Book of the Month Club selection and had remained unopened since my wife purchased it for me. (Imagine trying to turn on a Kindle untouched after 20 years!)
I reached back, read the first page of this journey from sinful youth to Christian conversion, and discovered a treasure written in AD 397. Reading the thoughts and wisdom of someone who lived more than a millennium and a half ago is true time travel.
The very act of holding a book is a sensual experience. It’s old-fashioned and comforting. My financial manager recently confessed a deep secret: His wife was going to Baltimore for the evening and he relished the time alone with a book.
“What I find very exciting is sitting in a room in an otherwise dark house, resting in my chair with a blanket over me. I will have a fire in the fireplace and but one reading lamp on. The dog is lying beside me, and I am reading a book. I have trouble defining a happier moment.”
Another thing about books – they have a staying power few other gifts can match. Who will ever forget the first time reading “Don Quixote” or “Moby-Dick” or “Pride and Prejudice”? They are passports into other worlds. Years later, I still chuckle recalling the bawdy adventures of the fictional “Flashman” character. But the Flashman chronicles are first-rate historical fiction, however implausible.