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Bibliophile seeking same

CB068378by Dora

So, there I was, in a bookstore, shopping for Christmas presents. I hadn’t planned on being there that night. Or even making books the theme for my Christmas giving this year, for that matter. But I was waiting for the rest of my dinner party to arrive, and the shop was a calm respite from the noisy restaurant next door.

I’ve always been a bit of a bibliophile. I don’t remember many toys from my childhood, but I remember the books I read and loved. Most of my childhood summers were spent delving over books from the local library. Myopia seems to run in my family, but l maintain that our glasses are simply outer manifestations of our love for reading. Even now, it’s rare that I am anywhere without a book on hand.

Back to the bookstore. I’d found a couple of good matches, and was just wandering around, killing time, when I found myself in the C section of the fiction department. As usual, I checked to see if one of my favorite books was in stock. It was. I picked it up for the sheer pleasure of flipping through a couple of pages. And then I couldn’t stop. My phone started buzzing, and I knew that my party had arrived for dinner, and yet I couldn’t put the book down. So I bought it, for myself, for the third time.

My friend Perky introduced me to this book a number of years ago. She loaned me her copy, and I devoured it in a number of hours. It wasn’t long, and the reading was easy, but the beauty of the story, and the simplicity of the writing brought me to tears. At that point, I knew that I would have to possess my own copy. I returned Perky’s copy, and bought a handful … one for myself, and several to give to especially good friends of mine. Because, really, that’s what I like to do with books that touch me as deeply as good friends often do. I gave away all the copies but one, which I reread and made notes in.

Over the years, I lent the book out to several other friends. And in the process, it was lost. I hope that somewhere it is giving someone joy. As for myself, I decided that I wanted to get a hard cover copy, which is what I like to do with books I love. After a few years, I found one on-line that seemed perfect: an older edition, with a beautiful cover, that was only gently used. I purchased the book for the second time. Sadly, it never came. Lost in the mail, perhaps? I got my refund from the bookseller, but was never reconciled to the loss of the book I’d wanted. I never was able to find a hardbound copy, despite checking in every used bookstore I visit.

So, there I was, entering the restaurant, with my third copy of this book, and a glow about my person. Returned home after dinner, and read the book again before going to sleep. Yes, it’s still as good as I remembered. Yes, I’m still glad I bought it, despite having paid full price. The simplicity and beauty of the message still resonate strongly with my soul, and inspires me to be  more hopeful and charitable.

What are the non-scriptural books that you love? The ones that you must keep a copy of? The ones that have changed you and helped you grow? The ones that you can’t help but share with others? How did you come across it? Why do you love it so?

PS: The book I’ve been writing about is By the River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept, by Paulo Coelho. Like Coelho’s other works, it is fiction, but is sometimes placed in the philosophy section of used bookstores.  One passage that brings me a lot of joy …

You have to take risks, he said. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.

Every day, God gives us the sun and also one moment in which we have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy. Every day, we try to pretend that we haven’t perceived that moment, that it doesn’t exist that today is the same as yesterday and will be the same as tomorrow. But if people really pay attention to their everyday lives, they will discover that magic moment. It may arrive in the instant when we are doing something mundane, like putting out front-door key in the lock, it may be hidden in the quiet that follows the lunch hour or in the thousand and one things that all seem the same to us. But that moments exists a moment when all the powers of the stars becomes a part of us and enables us to perform miracles.

Joy is sometimes a blessing, but it is often a conquest. Our magic moment helps us to change and sends us off in search of our dreams. Yes, we are going to suffer, we will have difficult times, and we will experience many disappointments but all of this is transitory; it leavds no permanent mark. And one day we will look back with pride and faith at the journey we have taken.


Dora is a pediatric critical care nurse. Therapy to alleviate the stress in her professional life include traveling around the world, reading, partner dancing and hosting dinner parties.

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  1. Lisa says:

    The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

  2. Seraphine says:

    There are quite a few books that I cherish, but I’ll narrow it down to three. Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers, And Her Soul out of Nothing by Olena Kalytiak Davis, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

    The last of these was my favorite book as a child. I loved it so much that I memorized most of the poetry from it (and I can still recite the Jabberwocky). It was fantastic and magical and was about the difficulties growing up and figuring out who you were.

    The Davis book is a poetry book. I have a handful of poetry books, of which this is one, that I reread over and over again. I picked up the Davis book in college randomly in a bookstore, and proceeded to read it from cover to cover. I fell in love with it because, especially at the time, her poetry reflected my emotional experience of the world.

    Richard Powers is one of my favorite authors, and his books are not only incredibly cerebral and thought-provoking, but also emotionally powerful and sometimes heartbreaking. Galatea 2.2 was the first book of his that I read. When I was in college the honors program I belonged to brought in an author each year, we read one of his/her books, and then the author would give a talk, lead some discussions, etc. We read this book for this program my freshman year, and reading the book and spending time with the author and fellow students in the honors program was an incredible, incredible experience.

    Here’s my favorite line from the book:

    “Life meant convincing another that you knew what it meant to be alive.” – Richard Powers, Galatea 2.2

  3. marta says:

    Thank you for the P.S.; I was almost in tears thinking you were going to post this without telling us what the book was.

  4. FoxyJ says:

    Man, I read so many books that there are always ones I want to share with others. Some of my recent favorites are: Here if You Need Me by Kate Braestrup, Where Nothing is Long Ago by Virginia Sorensen and On the Road to Heaven. If I had money to buy presents for people this year, I would get them those. Well, I have specific people in mind for these particular books–that’s generally how my mind works. I don’t have very many books that I think would work for everyone I know.

  5. elizabeth-w says:

    Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl to me is like scripture. It’s all about having total control over how you perceive a situation. You may think you have no choices, but nobody can control your mind.

    When I was in college, I was steeped in social work policy–all about helping the heavy hands that hang down, taking from the rich and giving to the poor, etc. For some reason I started reading Ayn Rand. It was so completely opposite to what I was thinking about in school. I gobbled up her writing because she said things I’d never thought before, and the way she wrote was amazing. Her positions are so extreme but when you read her history, you can see why it was ‘truth’ for her.

    Believing Christ by Stephen Robinson taught me the gospel in a way that 40 years of being taught it at church hadn’t.

  6. G says:

    dora, this was beautiful! lately, I have found myself unable to read for long periods of time, unable to emerse myself in a book the way I used to (I used to be the person who could never be without a book). It is wonderful to read about your own love affair with them, gives me a bit a hope that my own will be rekindled.

    the one that sticks out to me the most at the moment: Life of Pi by Yann Matel,

  7. Alisa says:

    Although I’m not a huge consumer of juvenile lit, A Wrinkle in Time is almost like scripture to me. It’s rare to find a book that works so well with a heroine such as Meg (a female protagonist, for one thing). The story of fighting the Black Thing and of saving her family with love is a great allegory.

  8. EmilyCC says:

    Beautiful, Dora! (And, more books to add to my reading list!)

    Off the top of my head, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude–love it.

  9. marta says:

    I have read (not exaggerating) thousands of books and would love to share which are my favorites, but really I can’t remember. And often when I re-read a book, or buy it for myself multiple times it is because I do not remember having read it.
    This would be sad, but really, there is always something new for me to read.

  10. Eliza says:

    Love books! As far as ones that changed my views and will forever be dear – The Problem with Compassion and Atlas Shrugged. And for one that changed my emotions I would say the Four Agreements. All great books I wouldn’t mind having multiple copies of to keep or give away.

  11. Rose says:

    I read The Chosen by Chaim Potok a couple of years ago and that has stuck with me, powerfully.
    But it seems the non-fictions are what usually stick in my mind, the ones that open another curtain of the world, that get me outside myself and see things differently.
    Don’t Let’s Go Down to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller and Country of My Skull by Antjie Krog are two that have really made me think deeply about the life I live and how that relates to everything else in the world.

  12. ryan says:

    I too loved the Chosen, and Mans Search for
    meaning. The books I want everyone to read
    are My Antonia, Wise Blood,and Leaves of Grass.

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