Everyone say "thank you" to Bookpusher for linking to what may be the most incredible collection of photographs I've seen in a great while:
A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries
I've always had a love affair with books, and these photographs are like pornography for the book-lover. There is so much power and beauty wrapped up in libraries like the ones pictured - volume after volume of knowledge so gloriously displayed, in a manner fitting the contents of the collections. I am fascinated that such places exist at all, especially my own country, where it seems many people seem to be devaluing scholarly pursuits as of late.
A while back, I came upon a poll that asked whether or not it is okay to write in or mark up books. I fall squarely on the YES side. I have a tangible relationship with a book, and underlining passages and taking notes in the margins is part of that relationship. I find pleasure in picking up a book years after I've originally marked the hell out of it, and seeing what I found interesting about it during a long-ago read-through. Many times, what interested me then isn't quite the same as what interests me now, and I find myself rediscovering parts of me that have faded in favor of more contemporary leanings.
This physical interaction with a text is hampered quite a bit by my Sony Reader. No longer can I take scribble my thoughts in margins for posterity to discover. Instead, I can carry 50 books with me at a time, which, to me, is its own benefit. I hope that an electronic reader is in development that allows for more interaction, because I really do miss it. Since not all books are available for the reader, however, I still get the chance to put pen to margin on occasion.
I don't know if I can quite convey the attraction that books and libraries and bookstores hold for me. A gardener who feels a connection to the earth when they hold soil in their fingers, a baker who feels a connection to hearth and home as they kneed bread - these are what I imagine to be similar feelings as the connection to knowledge and history and humanity I feel when I hold a book. It's as if I'm part of something very big, and at the same time, incredibly personal. All readers who take part in the same reading experience share a common consciousness, and this connection is something that is greater than just the author and the reader and the publisher and the supplier. This connection is the sharing of wisdom through the ages, and every time I pick up a book, I become timeless.
A cold day, a warm robe, a steaming cup of coffee, and a good book - for me, very few things come as close to absolute perfection.