One of the best things about my day job is the variety of people I come across every day. I wait on cops (the Dekalb County SWAT team are some of my favorite customers), rednecks, soccer moms and dads, hippies, hipsters, artists, politicians, bus drivers, mechanics, and –my favorites after the SWAT team — book people.
Most of my book people are regulars, and part of the reason I love them is because they are so easy to wait on. The food is almost secondary to the book, and as soon as they order, they crack it open (or turn it on, if they are e-reader people) and they are gone. They don’t need a whole lot, just their time alone with something good to read and a glass of wine to wash it down. I like to watch their faces as they read, as their emotions change with the events in their books, the shock or the sadness or the laughter.
Most of the time, I leave the book people alone, because I know how annoying it is when you’re in the middle of a good book and someone keeps interrupting you, even if they are interrupting you to talk about the book you are reading. “Is it good?” they ask. “Yes,” I always want to say, “I’d like to keep on reading this good book.” Hint, hint.
But sometimes I just can’t resist. A few weeks ago, for instance, one of my customers came into the restaurant with Don DeLillo’s Point Omega under his arm, and I just couldn’t help myself. Don DeLillo is one of my absolute favorite writers under the sun, and I hardly ever see people reading him. Which, if you ask me, is one of the great travesties of our time, but I digress. The point is, I just had to talk to him about the book, which is one that I hadn’t read yet, and what followed was the kind of conversation that only happens between book people, gushing about dialogue and theme and words and stories. This ten minute conversation put a smile on my face for the rest of the day.
A few days later, I was even more excited to find, upon starting my shift, that this lovely gentleman had dropped his copy of Point Omega off at the restaurant for me to read. And this got me thinking about book people, and the beauty of books, and why book people are so devoted to them. Books are someone else’s thoughts, their questions, their answers, their passions, poured out onto a page and bundled up to share with other people. We read them, and they become ours, and when we really love a book, we want to share it with our friends, our families, even strangers, because we feel part of ourselves in them. They can make all of our troubles and neuroses feel valid. They can make our lives seem better than we thought they were, or inspire us to try harder, to do better. And when that happens, we want to share it.
Book people are sharers, I think. We read a book we like and we pass it on to someone else, and we talk about how the book made us feel, how it changed our way of thinking about things, how it made us look at our lives from a new angle. I love lending books I’m crazy about to my friends, so that we can enjoy the books together, because books are all about sharing ideas with other people. And that’s why I love them.