A few days ago I found myself staring at a stack of books a stranger donated to the library where I work. My lunch hour had just ended. With my belly full, I felt sleepy. I glanced outside from the window in my office and yearned for the sunshine on the back of my neck, for the little breeze that fluttered the leaves to play with my hair. But I turned back to the books. I sighed.
Then I opened one: a blue cloth-bound book, small and sturdy. The yellowed pages felt thick, the very tops of them blue-gray with decades of dust. I inhaled and the scent of many years of use tickled my nose. I smiled.
I love the smell of old books—aged paper and binding thread and glue, old cloth and fading ink, thumb prints and dust. All of this—the dust gathered, the notes scribbled in margins, the ripped page corners and tattered spine, the creaky bindings—it all reminds me that, like our own bodies, books break down and disintegrate with use. They do not last forever, no matter how well we preserve them. But the ideas they carry from other times into ours, and eventually into the future, never disappear. Like us, a book is more than its pages and binding. Like us, a book touches many lives throughout its existence. Like us, the soul of a book never dies.