They Smell of Nutmeg

Libraries have always been sacred and mysterious places to me. They charge no fee for checking out a book, yet I often find myself alone strolling the aisles. The shelved books all whisper to me, begging to be read, ten thousand different voices telling their own story. The murmurs continue until I place my finger on the spine of the perfect book. At that moment I can only hear one voice.

A book is deceptively simple. All I have to do is take it off the shelf, open it, and begin to read. Thus starts a new adventure. If it bores me, I can just as easily close it, gingerly, so as not to offend it, and place it back on the shelf for someone else to discover.

My obsession for reading overwhelmed me one day during the summer before third grade. I lay in bed reading various books from L. Frank Baum’s Oz series. I kept at it so long that I perceived nothing but the words scrolling by on the page. No outside sound or sight interrupted my thoughts, because none of them entered my consciousness. The words on the page seemed strangely real. Individual letters took on personalities: the common, unadorned o; the slim, feminine l; and one of my favorites, the fleeting yet elegant capital Q. Ten hours later, I could see faint inscriptions in front of my eyes each time I heard a spoken word.

I find myself attracted to the quiet confidence of books. TheyΒ do often smell of nutmeg, as Ray Bradbury noted. In a book, I follow the inner dialogue of a person, something which fascinates me, especially since the only inner dialogue I hear in real life is my own. When I read, I determine the pace, the sound of each character’s voice in my own head, and what will be perused or skimmed, read once or read a dozen times.

Reading breeds creativity. Most books supply no visual images. You have to turn those rusty cogs in your head in order to create them yourself. As a result, there are no bad special effects in reading, just occasional bad prose.

At the end of a book I am reluctant to say goodbye to the characters I feel I’ve only just met. In a way, they are my own. The author created them for the book, but they took form in my own head. I hold unique representations different from the ones my neighbor holds.

The gentle persuasion of a novel impresses me. If it is well written, I realize the implicit message the author has plodded me toward all along.

If the day ever comes when books die out, it will not be because anyone has prohibited reading. It will be because we have freely chosen to do otherwise, and that will be a shame.

34 thoughts on “They Smell of Nutmeg

  1. Very wise words. It made me immediately add heading to the library to my short term list of places to visit. Sometimes the free things in life are so easy to forget about in their simplistic pleasure possibilities. I appreciate the gentle reminder!

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    • Thanks so much! I’ve been studying that mysterious quality called “voice” that some authors seem to have so naturally and one quality I wanted to adopt was “welcoming.” I’m so glad you felt that way!!

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  2. Great post. I am myself an avid reader AND I work in a public library after 25 years as a book seller. I still remember the joy of hiding downstairs at my home, comfy in the beanbag, with the sun warming me through the curtained window…..and my mum telling me that I had to stop reading and go outside. Gee mum….I’d only been reading for two hours!!

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  3. The local library was where I spent most of my childhood, outside of school. I loved that I could enter an unknown world every time I opened the cover. Today, with most of the library occupied by computer stations, I still wander through the shelves alone, yet amongst so many different characters that are anxiously awaiting an opportunity to introduce their world to me. This post was wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

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