Books and Books

When I was at Loyola High School in Montreal, my favorite room was the library. It wasn’t just the sight and smell of all those old books, but the opportunity to make discoveries wandering through the stacks. There was a whole shelf of G. A. Henty, and another of Edgar Rice Burroughs, that I worked my way through during an entire semester. This reading was definitely not a class assignment, and I don’t think anyone recommended the authors to me. I was probably attracted by the books themselves, solid Edwardian creations with colorfully illustrated cloth covers—no cheap paper jackets in those days. Years later, when I started writing, I reenacted those schoolboy adventures when I prowled university library stacks, researching books on subjects such as leisure, domestic comfort, and small tools. Card catalogues were useful, of course, but a more pleasurable research technique was to find the title I was looking for in the stacks, and then simply browse to the right and left of it, seeing what I could find. This doesn’t make much sense in a digital age, and I rarely prowl the stacks anymore. That is a shame, for while the Internet is a very good tool for finding information, it is much less effective at discovering information.

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