Through the Looking Glass and Into the Wardrobe by Ren Martinez

There’s something uniquely special about a used bookstore.

Plywood shelves brimming over in paperbacks, their spines lined with use. The smell of paper and ink, a slight mustiness that clings to your clothes even after you leave. The utter silence of them, except for perhaps the sounds of Ximena Sarinana or some other obscure singer-songwriter quietly humming through the space. I could be content for hours, my fingers brushing against the jam-packed shelves, my gaze caught by a short story anthology from an author I’ve never heard of but summarily fall in love with. My arms brim over with fantasy tales, history texts, comic books, and treatises on government. I discover a small, worn notebook of french poetry and, despite the fact that I can’t read a word of the language, have to blink away tears.

We’re in an age of technological advancement. I’m on the internet for hours a day, whether I’m goofing around on Facebook or checking my email for any responses to the countless job applications I’ve sent or researching a plot point for the latest chapter of my manuscript. I recognize and am mesmerized by social media and its effect on our lives, how we can connect with people so like ourselves in places we will never see, how we can all raise our fists in anger the moment an injustice is done. As a child of the millennium, I own four video game consoles, one laptop, one smartphone, and a Kindle. The Kindle is one of my favorites, actually. It’s never been easier to read whatever I want anywhere I go. I can instantly cruise Amazon and find that sequel to the book I’ve just finished or discover a literary unknown that turns out to be a veritable gem.

That being said, I am a child of paper. I have three bookcases in my apartment, stuffed with old textbooks and well-worn novels that I can read over and over again. There are also plenty that I have yet to begin, just waiting for me to open them up and discover their secrets. There is something so singular about reading a book, turning pages covered in ink until you shut the back cover, the soft sound, one of finality. It’s an experience that has defined my childhood and is a pillar of the person I am today, this fledgling adult with no sense of direction except upwards and onwards.

Today, I plan on going to my local bookstore and getting lost again. Because, every time I get lost, I end up somewhere I’ve always wanted to go.

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