I traveled last week to Story Nashville, a conference hosted by Crosspoint Church in Nashville, Tennessee. I enjoy traveling more than most, in no small part because of the solitary nature of any given excursion. To those who know me, this should come as no surprise—I am an extreme introvert by nature, though a well-practiced extrovert. It’s the introvert that needs the travel, the blending into the airport crowd, the whir of the airplane engine drowning out most conversations, the headphones drowning the rest.
More than the solitude, though—and brace yourself for this bold statement—I adore an airport bookstore. I am a book junkie, and if I could mainline words, I’d probably ask you to pass the elastic band and syringe; I’d freebase them from a spoon. (Was that a touch crass? I suppose sometimes the truth is.) So last week, on the way to share stories at Story, I made a beeline to Potomac Books and began perusing the shelves. (The name of the bookstore has been changed to protect the innocent–namely, me.)
I picked new releases from the shelves, read bits and pieces. I snatched a copy of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See–a book that nearly stole my will to write–and fawned over a few of my favorite pages. I flipped through the words and photographs of a World War II history book, devoured the captions under the photos of Rommel churning up dust in North Africa. Mindy Kaling’s new book was on the shelves, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns), and I read a few pages, laughed till I choked on my Jamba Juice. Books, books, everywhere. It was Valhalla, I say.
I moved to the Religion and Spirituality section of the Potomac and scanned the titles. Here, my bookish aura greened, bile rising, as I noted the smiling, Photoshopped heads floating against muted backdrops, the titles promising me my best life now or some version of it. They were there with their pearl white teeth offering reward from work or faith, depending upon the flavor of the author. They were the salesmen of promise. What was the promise? Happiness. Wealth. Status. Perhaps a good sex life. Hopefully a good sex life. (Who wouldn’t buy a book promising a good sex life?)
Joel Osteen was smiling next to Dave, who was smiling next to T.D., who was smiling next to Ben, who was smiling next to some buxom woman in a deep-V blouse promising a good sex life. (Again I ask: who wouldn’t buy a self-help book promising a good sex life?) The people–they’re all smiling on their book covers these days. Frowns and ash don’t move print, I suppose.
And this is where the story shifts, and why the bookstore name must be changed for my protection. There, among those very pretty floating heads all awash in smiles was a little book by Emily Freeman, Simply Tuesday:Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. In contrast to its companions, it was simple. It was the unassuming fish swimming in the pond of assuming largemouths. I picked it up, flipped the pages and read as she wrote of living a deeply connected life in the hustle and flow of the everyday. I flipped, flipped, flipped, and was moved by the honesty of Freeman’s work. It was, at it’s root, true.
And this is the part of the story wherein I might have crossed the line. There was her book, a shining pearl among the fool’s gold (dangit if they’re not profiting off so much pyrite these days) and the spirit (mine or the spirit of God, who can know) said Freeman needed more shelf space. I didn’t cover Ben, or Dave, or T.D., or the Buxom woman wearing the deep-V (doesn’t everyone need a book promising a good sex life?). In a moment of weakness, though, I grabbed a few copies of Simply Tuesday, and faced them out, covering Mr. Osteen’s smiling face. I’m not sure the legality of the move, though I’m quite sure it was untoward and uncivil. I didn’t raise the ire of the T.S.A., little act of resistance that it was. I’m also quite positive that the shelving snafu was quickly noted by the pimple-faced teen at gum counter, and the issue was rectified once I turned my back on the shelf. Even still, the act felt good.
Sometimes it feels good to be a rebel.
I walked from the Potomac to my gate, whispered a quick Lord Have Mercy over the folks who entered the Potomac. And by Lord Have Mercy, I meant this: “Lord, let a few more copies of Simply Tuesday find their way into the hands of all these fast paced travelers.”
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