“Mom, can I get a book and keep it?”
— A little boy, about age 4 or 5, window shopping as I exited Barnes & Noble today.
I melted into the pavement with a big “awwwww!” His pregnant mom, holding the hand of a teetering toddler, gave a bittersweet laugh and looked at the boy, then at me. “I guess he’s not used to keeping them,” she said. “He’s used to taking them back to the library.” I walked about 10 steps down the strip mall sidewalk before realizing, “You idiot! Turn around buy that kid a book! It’s your chance to do a good deed for the day and perform a random act of kindness!” I turned around, but they were gone. Hopefully, they were inside the store playing in the books, trying to decide which one to take home and keep.
Please support your local bookstores this holiday season, even if they’re big boxes. They’re playgrounds of the imagination, the territory of curious explorers of all ages. They lure us to geographies we’d otherwise never think to venture, and on journeys to places we didn’t know existed — no matter our age or our reading level. They’re a place to explore books in real time, where we don’t have to keep our eyes on a screen or click any buttons or worry about being disconnected. We can touch and smell what we want to buy, or might want to buy, or what we definitely don’t want to buy but do want to steal a peek at. We can take it home the same day – no postage involved. If we need help, we can get advice and ideas from a real person with a face. Bookstore workers tend to be actually helpful. I really don’t want to live in a world without bookstores. It would be a little like living in a world without spring. Let’s try to keep the toothpaste in the tube as long as we can!