I admit it – I am a book addict. Electronic versions have their place, but I like the feel of paper, the randomness of flipping pages, the overlooked but intrinsic choice of typeface and paper selection, the ability to work after 10 months of being forgotten about, in short all the things that go missing in the electronic world. I like the fact that a sufficient number of books can impact the thermal mass of a building and help to maintain a consistent internal temperature. I like feeling the balance of the book change in my hands as the pages on the left become heavier than those on the right.
I like bookstores. I like large bookstores that are stocked with everything you can imagine and more, and I like small bookstores with very focused markets, and I like the mid sized bookstores that have a smattering of everything and can order what they don’t have (though in the days of online bookstore that has become less and less necessary). I like new bookstores, used bookstores, and those that sell both.
I adore libraries of all types – from large institutions to “give and take” piles in offices and apartment common areas.
I love the misfits of the book world, those overruns or remainders that make their way to the bargain bin or the discount booksellers to be emblazoned with a black strip across the pages and sold for a fraction of the cover price. Diving into a bargain bin and basing purchase decisions on a 30 second or less reading of a randomly opened page has led me on some memorable literary expeditions in directions I would otherwise have never considered taking.
All of this does tie in to Tokyo. While there are some dedicated english language bookshops, and most of the larger bookstores do have a few things available in other languages, the odds of walking in off the street to a given bookstore and finding that is not overly high. But I do so anyway. I can’t read a single word of what is printed, but as soon as I see the hallmarks of a bookstore I am compelled to go in and browse. I can spend hours doing this as I try and guess what section I am in, and if I am very lucky I will stumble across a non-fiction book that has sufficient illustrations to enable me to grasp at least some of the content. Yesterday, for example, I was in the gardening section of a 9 story tower of books and found something on building your own personal onsen (Japanese style hot tub) that had several drawings of the design and plumbing, so I bought it as a reference to take home in case I feel compelled to build an onsen… which could well be the case – they are nearly as addictive as books!