Any library is a splendid place. I would be at least mildly enthralled even in the poor little Kanab, Utah city library, where half a dozen aisles of book stacks could hold my interest for a couple of hours, and simple browsing would become exploration of the highest order. As a young boy in Miami, Florida, I loved going to the main public library downtown, a monstrous treasury of bound knowledge where I would wander like an untethered dog in a forest, glancing at books that randomly attracted my unschooled eye, flipping through, reading here or there, then moving on to another beckoning volume whose title or binding caught my attention, sniffing them in the dog’s style, caressing them, feeling certain that I was enhancing my paltry store of knowledge by osmosis and desire alone. “I have always imagined,” wrote Jorge Luis Borges, “that Paradise will be a kind of library.” In order to feel this way, one must regard books as sacred things, precious jewels almost, not quite sentient but certainly alive in their own special way, and the more gifted the author, the more singular the book that brings his or her words to the world. I have suspected for a long time that if I abandoned my bedroom and slept in that room of my house where all my books are shelved, I would sleep more profoundly and somehow, in some inexplicable way, wake up smarter than when I went to sleep.
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