Jul 19, 2024  |  
 | Remer,MN
Sponsor:  QWIKET.COM 
Sponsor:  QWIKET.COM 
Sponsor:  QWIKET.COM 
Sponsor:  QWIKET.COM Sports Media Index – Perfect for Fantasy Sports Fans.
Sponsor:  QWIKET.COM Sports Media Index – Perfect for Fantasy Sports Fans. Track media mentions of your fantasy team.
New York Times
24 Feb 2024
Sam Dolnick

NextImg:The Joy of Stoop Books

My life, like yours, I suspect, can feel like it has been ingeniously designed for the sole purpose of strangling serendipity. Work days are built around back-to-back meetings and video calls; evenings revolve around children’s bedtimes; date nights have to be scheduled weeks in advance; even phone calls to catch up with friends can take multiple rounds of back-and-forth coordination by text.

I have found a secret antidote to all that structure, a magic portal that has no clock or key. It is a neighborhood stoop, or rather, the discarded books that gather there. For you, maybe that translates into a bargain bin or a giveaway pile; wherever you can find books that are weathered, dog-eared and inscribed to someone else. They call out to me like porch lights to a bug.

Why do I love other people’s books? Because they carry no obligation and no expectations, unlike that novel weighing down my night stand, from a friend who insisted that I love it. Or that other one, that won an award I should care about. Or the one I’ve been halfway through for a year. If you’re not on guard, your free time can easily become someone else’s.

Found books, meanwhile, are blissfully dislocated from any hint of duty or “discourse.” They are deserted islands. Population: one.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, I purchased two well-reviewed books that had long been on my reading list. That evening, while walking the dog, I found a Saul Bellow novel from 1982 sitting on a stoop. I had never heard of it, and the cover had an unappetizing illustration of a bald man’s forehead, but I scooped up “The Dean’s December” like I had won the lottery. Later that night, as I stayed up reading Bellow on communist Romania (why not!), I beamed while my carefully considered new purchases lay untouched in my bag.

I delighted in each yellowed sentence: “The meat tasted of fire and suggested sacrifice. It carried a creaturely flavor; the smell of the stall, of the hide, was still there, and he had to suppress the unwanted feeling of animal intimacy that it gave him.”

Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.

Thank you for your patience while we verify access.

Already a subscriber? Log in.

Want all of The Times? Subscribe.