The Soul Tap of Book Love

Elizabeth Bluemle - September 19, 2016

The happiest sight in a bookstore is the book hug, where a customer is so overcome by excitement or nostalgia over the book in their hands that they hug it to their chest. We’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the book hug countless times over the past 20 years. It’s a gesture most often used by children, but grownups have been known to embrace their books, too. Today, I saw a new version of the book hug: the soul tap. It was an adult man’s gesture, but you can see a recreation of it here from our staffer, Emily:

A stylish couple in their mid-20s came into the Flying Pig looking for birthday presents for an eight-year-old boy. They had direction; the female half of the couple wanted Tarzan or The Call of the Wild. Having not read Tarzan in years, if ever, I wasn’t sure how eight-year-old appealing/friendly it is, and we didn’t have any of the younger adaptations on hand, so I was relieved that we could hand her the fantastic family read-aloud, The Call of the Wild, without hesitation. Then she caught sight of the newest Guinness Book of World Records and picked that up, as well.
Then her boyfriend approached me.
“There’s a book I’ve been having a hard time finding,” he said. “I don’t suppose you have it, but… are you familiar with the Redwall series?”
I was surprised to hear that he had had trouble finding those books. Not only was I familiar with Redwall -– a series that seems about due for a renaissance — but those books carry a whole host of fond memories from my days as a New York City school librarian in the West Village. An 8th-grader named D’Artagnan absolutely loved the series, and during his class’s daily half-hour reading stints in the library, we spent a lot of time reading chapters back and forth together.
When I told our customer that we carried the series, his face lit up with inner 12-year-old glee. He became luminous. When I handed him the first volume, he held it and tapped his heart twice, brimming with joy – a twenty-something guy’s version of a book hug. I was charmed to witness the soul tap of love and the wave of reverie that accompanied it.
“A whole group of guys in my class bonded over these books,” he said, again tapping the book to his chest, and then trailed off, shaking his head in a string of silent memories.
How powerful and magical are stories, that they can create connection that lasts a lifetime. Every time a gruff old man asks for Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel and sheds years when we hand it over, or a grandmother reaches for Anne of Green Gables and wonders aloud if kids today still love it, or a great-uncle happily clasps The Snowy Day for his nieces and nephews, we see their young faces peeking out of the old, alight once more with the love inspired by favorite books.
Whether it’s a hug, a soul tap, or a smiling nod of recognition, we booksellers live to share that joy with readers.

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