• Henry Martin

The beauty of a book

Updated: May 6

A thought on Krakow, Carson McCullers, and books.


Photo credit: Carson McCullers. Photo taken by Richard Avedon for Harper's Bazaar, 1956


For me #books are like photographs hung on a wall. When I see a book on my shelf I am reminded both of the book and its contents, but also where I was when I bought the book, how I was feeling, who I was thinking of, what I was hoping for that day, how old I was and much more.


When I look at the books on my shelf I am looking at #Paris, #Krakow, #Boston, #London, #Dublin, and #Galway. I am looking at my parents, my friends, my lovers, and those who are no longer living. I am looking at my achievements, and my failures. Looking at my #bookshelves allows me to exist at different times at the same time.


I don’t believe I will ever have possessions popular with a large portion of people: cars, houses, children, pets. There is little I can leave behind other than what I write, or what I’ve read. Books are the closest thing I can give away.


With books, though I purge, I still binge and crave. They are my addiction. Tonight, when I bought a book in a bookshop in Krakow, and wrote my name and date on the inside cover I am writing a letter to myself in twenty years’ time, and leaving a letter behind me for someone to question one day.


It doesn’t matter that only I remember that before I bought the book I spent an enchanted hour walking down dim cobbled streets, smelling wood-burning fires, texting a friend on a phone in New York, eight hours behind in time. Or that I downed vodka in a smoke-filled empty Polish bar, and made the bargirl laugh in the way I drank from the over-filled glass. It doesn’t matter that no one will know who I was in love with when I bought Carson McCullers in Paris or that I was surprised and touched by a poetry book my father bought me when I was twenty-one.


All the person who inherits these books will have to do is open them and start reading to make the books their own.


The beauty of a book is that it is foolishly open and indiscriminate, and it loves everybody (even if it is a book full of hate) in varied ways if you are open to it. Books have sweat in them, and skin in them. They are more than just books. They are more than just books. They are very much more than just books.

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© 2020 Henry Martin.