The book will find you


If a book is an idea, caught and caged in paper and ink, a library is a zoo of every captured thought you can imagine, and some you can’t.


No one knows how long thoughts and ideas roamed around in human heads before someone decided to capture them in on clay tablets 5,000 years ago. Facts proved easy to catch, as did moral instructions, recipes, and divinations; and the earliest still survive on clay, stones, boards, bones, turtle shells, and papyrus rolls. (You can go to this book history timeline to see the ones discovered so far.) Inevitably, people corralled these ideas into collections called libraries.


If a book is a tree you climb to hide among the leaves and listen, a library is a forest full of sound.


From the earliest times, people in power (rulers, rich people, and religious and scholastic organizations) had private groves of books. When the earliest public libraries opened, money and power served as library cards.


The vast forests of books that we would recognize as free public libraries were not planted until the 19th century.



If a book is made of the hours of a writer’s life, a library is a clock shop where you can borrow time.


You walk into a library to kill time. You stroll through the stacks and the title of a book strikes you; then, you look at its face and the small hands grab you. If you are quiet you will hear the soft tick-tock of the words. When it’s time, the book finds you, and if it’s a good book, you have the time of your life reading it.



If a book is a ship that carries you to a place as strange and familiar as home, a library is harbor on an endless sea.


To sail away on a book, you need to find a port. Or the port needs to find you: drawn by a donkey cart, carried on the back of a camel, or hauled in that familiar bus known as the bookmobile.


Books will find you!
(picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons)


My city library provides me with endless choices for travel on that endless sea of ideas and stories. I always thought it was the only port in town.


Three weeks ago, I found a small boat landing just four blocks from my house, called The Little Free Library. More of a book exchange than a lending library, it offers one more place to get carried away by books. The Little Free Library website provides an interactive map, so you can see if there is one near you. Or maybe you want to put one in your yard. Finding this free box of books prompted me to write about books and libraries. It reminded me how books have changed me, taught me, delighted me, and brought me joy.


The Little Free Library near my house

Today if you go to the library, don’t hold back; let the book find you.

22 thoughts on “The book will find you

  1. The Bookmobile reminded me of the traveling lending libraries of the latter-19th-century U.S. Have you read Christopher Morley’s Parnassus on Wheels?

    • I love getting lost in a book, turning a page, and finding myself. I love how a book changes me. And there are some books I could live in and feel sad when I have to leave.

  2. For a while, I would get off the bus at the library and stay there the few hours until mom got off work. I’m ever grateful to the librarians for allowing it- but I was a good quiet kid and really, really wanted to read. Didn’t hurt that mom volunteered there and I donated $1,000 to the library renovation fund. It came back to me after a few years, and what else was an 8 year old doing with money from gramma? I felt so adult when I was asked if I wanted to do it, too. Even better is that they never limited me to the kid’s section!

    • It’s wonderful that you have all that time in the library. And what a grand donation that was for an eight-year-old to make. Very impressive. No wonder they never limited you to the kid’s section. Great story.

    • Books are patient. My list of books grows longer every day; I’ll never read them all or have time to re-read the ones I want to. Once the children are older, you will have more time. In the meantime, I’m sure you are enjoying all those wonderful children’s books.

  3. Loved this. Something about a book, and how it manages to find us, is really magical.

    ADORE the Little Free Library idea. I immediately clicked the link, and found some that are within a hundred miles or so of where I am (too bad there aren’t any closer). Hey, maybe I’ll need to be the one that puts one on the map in my area! I’m really, really tempted to take a little day trip just to visit the free library closest to me. It would be a nice way to honor the books that are waiting patiently to be chosen, as well as honoring the dedication of the people who took the time to create the Little Free Library stop in their area.

    Donkey cart, camel back, book bus, or Little Free Library … books are simply delicious.

    • I forgot to mention … that first photo makes me wanna take a big ole bite out of that Cuneiform cookie. I love it when you take an idea, and make it blossom on the page. Nicely done, you. You are one smart cookie.

      • I had to smile at the “Cuneiform cookie.” It really does look like one. It makes you think of that saying: You’re going to have to eat your words.

        And the Little Free Library idea – it’s marvelous. I’m sorry you don’t have one closer; let’s home it catches on and spreads across the states.

  4. Wanted to thank “RAB” for the reccomendation of Christopher Marley’s “Parnassus on Wheels” . Checked it out today and am in the process of reading it.

  5. A wonderful post! And as always there were treasures to be found in your links. I rode with a camel loaded with books to a nomad’s school and found myself peering into an amazingly well-outfitted library cart drawn by a donky iin Zimbabwe. What an adventure for me this evening as I sit parked at my computer.

    And the cuneiform tablet is familiar too. My first assignment at Oxford press years ago was writing advertising copy for a book entitled “Enuma Elis” written entirely in this script. I was overwhelmed when the only English was the publishing company’s logo on the jacket.

    It’s a hard language to learn. 🙂

    • What an interesting story about the book, Enuma Elis. I wonder how many people in the world can read it. I didn’t realize it was a creation myth until I googled it. Thanks for sharing about it.

  6. Thank you for this beautiful piece on libraries. And how nice to learn of your little free library close to your home. Libraries have always been a home for me, and traveling through the world, I used to make my rest stops in libraries. Nowadays, my personal home has turned into something of a library… but the internet has offered a very interesting alternative path as well.

    • I love the internet and the free information, but I would hate to live in a world without libraries. Stopping at libraries as you travel is a great idea. You must have visited many.

  7. Thanks for taking the time to stop by my blog and liking my post. Seems we both agree that books find us, and not the other way around. Happy reading!

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