(I take great sensual pleasure in walking with a book in my hand.)

A book is for reading, after all; that’s its agreed-upon function. Yet does the fact that we can read a book limit it to that exclusive use? I hope not. I think it’s possible to love the idea of a book or its title (how many great titles have been wasted on mediocre books) or the way it feels in your hands or looks on your shelf or smells or the memories it evokes or the possibilities it contains. Many of us own books that we treasure solely as objects or talismans, whether due to any abovementioned reasons or for more sentimental ones. I think it’s possible that the feeling we have for a book, based on affinity, memory, or potential, is sufficient to serve as the only justification necessary for our enthusiasm. I might even argue, with Mallarmé, that the ideal book is one that we never open, since an unopened book contains our dreams, whereas an open book contains someone else’s.

STEPHEN SPARKS, “A Book I Haven’t Read.” Tin House, March 19, 2013.

Photo: KIRBY

see also: The Invention of Solitude