Four years ago I wrote in this column about the value of the story behind every book. I am returning to this theme as it falls right into the value of the written word.
Tucked away in a corner of Penrith's main street is a second hand book shop. I love these kinds of stores: you never know what you are going to find, an old classic or a book you hardly ever see in mainstream bookshops.
Recently there has been quite a lot of news about the resurgence of these little bookshops (referred to as independent booksellers). They celebrate Australian literature, culture and society.
Although e-books have grown in popularity, the general situation appears to be that these little book shops are coming back into their own, sellers of new books along with these second hand book stores. The consensus is that little book stores have not been as threatened by the e-book as first imagined by the doomsayers.
Wherever you go in Australia there seems to be one of these little book shops, often in a back arcade or hidden away from the main thoroughfare. Sometimes it takes a bit of effort to find them if you're new to an area or even passing through.
One day when I was browsing through the selection of books at this particular Penrith second hand book store, I noticed an illustrated edition of the Lord of the Rings, one of my favourites, in both print and film.
While flicking through the pages a white slip of paper fell out. Bending down I noticed it was a train ticket that had been used as a bookmark. On further inspection it was a ticket from the London Underground—from 2002!
My mind was both confused and amazed at how that little ticket survived 10 years, a journey of nearly 17,000 kilometres, to be tucked away in a book now sitting on a bookshelf in Penrith.
I also thought of the person who had owned the book while reading on the tube about the fellowship's journey to destroy evil.
Never judge a book by its cover
Finding that little ticket made me think of a fable I learnt when I was in primary school: don't judge a book by its cover, to find out the truth you must flick through the pages.
When I returned the book to its shelf (I already own a copy and have read and re-read the adventure many times over) and left the store I thought of all the little journeys that we go through in life; and just like that ticket, you never know when you will be sparked into a new adventure—even if it is 10 years and half a world away.
The Bible remains the world's best-selling book, and although today many have colourful covers, largely they are single coloured. This is one book about which one should never assume anything by its cover—it is the most challenging and exciting book—and it says its content is sharper than a two-edged sword. Lives get changed.
Christopher Archibald lives in Sydney and is an under-graduate student.
Christopher Archibald's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/christopher-archibald.html