After a week like the last one, I struggle with what to write in this venue. It would be silly of us to overemphasize the importance of books in light of the recent events. I’ve turned away from the half-finished pile of titles on my nightstands and tables to watch the news incessantly, even during a road trip to southern California visiting old friends and family. As I introduce my infants for the first time to important people in my life, I can’t help but feel the shakiness of the world they’re entering and worry about how they will understand the tragedies of our nation.
Before bedtime we hold our babies in our laps and read them a story, just as generations before us all over the world have put their kids to sleep. These enduring books, like Goodnight Moon, Where the Wild Things Are, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? are a comfort: stories that remain unchanged in a constantly changing world. I see the safety these stories provide and they reassure me that my kids will always have one place to go where they will feel safe.
Books serve many purposes, but today I’m thinking about how they can make you feel at home. Safely tucked in bed, when I’m scared and lonely and worried during the day, I can still crack open my old copy of Pride and Prejudice and know a world where children do not die and true love prevails. The biggest problems are who to marry. I know I’ll turn back again and again to these safe worlds and appreciate the comfort they provide. That’s the role that books, and the safe haven of bookstores, play in relation to today’s tragic events. For that I’m deeply grateful.