I don’t buy many paper books these days, so I caught even myself off guard when I dropped fifty bucks on this doorstop-grade loaf while on vacation over the summer, and in a souvenir store no less.
We had spent the day in the wilderness and flipping through the pages it caught the dangling threads of my vacationing soul and pried open my wallet.
I had woken that same morning and gone for an eight kilometer trail run up the side of a small mountain to an overlook of the town where we were staying. I’d met a friend (who had moved out to there a few years back for career reasons) and she’d led me on a 7am (and two degrees Celsius in July!) run along a quiet road and up towards the trailhead of a short day hike path that was still quiet of all human life save us. We ascended a few hundred meters of elevation into the early morning crisp air and stood on a smooth boulder with a vista view spanning what seemed fifty kilometers in multiple directions, and I couldn’t help but feel a pang of envy that she could go up there any time she wanted and I was due to drive back to the city the next day.
Flipping through the display copy of Handbook of the Canadian Rockies by Ben Gadd that evening evoked some overlapping emotions I’d been feeling from that whole week-long excursion into the National Parks, but in particular tugged at my heart in the same sort of way that standing atop a small mountain did at the dawn of that day.
A few minutes later I was standing at a cash register, tapping my debit card on the kiosk and watching my own copy being handed back to me with a crisp little receipt bookmark protruding from the edge.
When I was a lot younger I was fascinated by the kinds of books that were stuffed with bounties of information, the kind of books like encyclopedias or almanacs that could surprise you with any visit. Those kinds of books you pry open to a random page and are greeted with a sub-sub-heading of some curious topic and you just read.
This is that kind of book.
I opened the book three times at random as I started to write this paragraph and on those three visits I was greeted with a page filled with information about local lichen species, then a page detailing the dietary habits of the mule deer, and finally a two-page spread timeline of the major geological events of the area dating back a few billions of years.
If that kind of thing isn’t your style, you’re probably also not the kind of person to feel pangs of wonder at the beauty of a particular rock formation or pause in the middle of a long hike to contemplate a small copse carpeted by lush green moss.
A month later I’ve consistently kept this book on my nightstand and made something of a habit of opening the book at random (if not every day) a few times per week and reading a few pages here or there about the history, flora, fauna, and geology of my nearby mountain escape…
…and then pining to be back there.
If that isn’t an endorsement for a book, I don’t know what is.