I’ve been immersed in Joshua Hammer’s The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu this past week, learning about manuscripts found in West Africa and across the Sahara desert as Abdel Haidara, the main character, pursues their preservation and restoration.
His search for scrolls in homes — whether they are lavish family estates or mud huts in tribal areas of Mali — continue to elicit a deep well of tenderness within me for the written word.
Some weekends ago, my mom asked me if I should throw away books I don’t read anymore; books that weren’t being read anymore, seemingly unloved should not take up physical space. I gave her a deranged look as I ran my fingers over spines of well-loved books: Zami by Audre Lorde, A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, This Bridge Called My Back by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa, Sula by Toni Morrison.
If there’s anything that running this blog has taught me, it’s that there is a unique, multilayered experience that one goes through while reading a particular book, one that is almost spiritual. It is the same sentiment I had while reading books I’ve written about:
- An Unnecessary Woman (And Her Books) with Rabih Alameddine
- What We Really Talk About When We Talk About Love (Part 1 & 2) with Alain de Botton
- The Difference Between Making a Living & a Life with Pico Iyer
- An Unlikely Currency: Books
In this video from The School of Life, philosopher Alain de Botton (my favorite!) lends insight into why we love certain books — and why certain books seem to know more about us than we do, our own selves:
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My review for Joshua Hammer’s The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu comes out in two days — don’t miss it and sign up for Libromance (click the “Follow” button on the bottom right corner of this site)!
Pia Cortez is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She runs a book blog called Libromance where she reviews books and publishes literary features with a queer Filipino immigrant lens. She is a contributor at Hella Pinay, an online magazine for Filipino-American women and at New Life Quarterly, a literary magazine based in Oakland, California. She is currently working on her first novel.