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Every time I step into a Barnes and Noble, I feel like I’m five years old again. All my worries- last week’s paper, that unfinished poem, my cluttered desk- seemed to vanish after opening those giant glass doors I have come to grow so familiar with. As a freshman navigating the ups and downs of college, my first semester has been full of surprises, laughs, fun times, and yes- even a box or two of Kleenex! Adjusting hasn’t been the easiest, but I soon realized that a trip to the bookstore was exactly what I needed.

 

I’ll always consider writing my first love, but reading is easily a close second. From a very young age, I deemed the bookstore down the street a second home for myself, always returning home with handfuls of new reads. I would then spend hours in my room completely lost in my own literary fantasies. With the simple flip of a page, I could be immediately transported to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory or be swept off my feet by Annie and Jack’s Magic Treehouse. Even at that age, reading wasn’t an escape from reality, but my inspiration to look inward and discover my own imagination.

Flash forward twelve years later and I’ve learned that reading isn’t all about chocolate rivers and backyard time-travels. While my classmates always seemed to groan over the assigned readings in school, I still always preferred them to any sort of test or exam. Even if it was just temporary, books have always relaxed me and given me a break from the craziness of everyday life.  As humans, we are constantly running on auto-pilot. Whether we realize it or not, so much of what we do in our day to day lives is done so routinely that sometimes we forget to just be. 

 

Walking into a bookstore is like going on a treasure hunt because part of the beauty of them is that you truly never know what you’re going to find. More likely than not, you will walk in with set expectations of what you want, but as you explore the different sections and aisles, will often change your mind and become more open. The possibilities are endless, and every book provides a journey for their readers to embark on. As I roamed the store in search for the Young Adult romance section, I accidentally stumbled upon the mystery section and was pleasantly surprised with what I came across. I piled a stack of them and sat myself down under the paper trees of the children’s section to explore what I had found.

All around me, I watched people interacting and sharing what they were reading with others. The grandma reading Frosty the Snowman to her bright-eyed grandson, the younger mother pushing her two month old in a stroller, the teenagers studying in the nooks and crannies of the store- something I noticed immediately was that there was such a variety of ages collaborating, sharing, and experiencing life unplugged together.  Regardless of how old you are, bookstores offer a unique community for people to come together and engage with one another. I got so fascinated by watching those around me that I barely picked up my phone. Books force your attention away from technology and instead on something much more joyful. Trust me, your latest Twitter notification can wait.  I touched my phone maybe twice over the course of my two and a half hours at Barnes and Noble, and I felt so much more present, leaving me relaxed and refreshed for the rest of the day. 

 

The experience of holding a book in hand brought back so many memories from my childhood.  When you read, you are engaging many senses. Between the fresh, crisp scent that lingers on the pages to the vibrant language scripted from one chapter to the next, reading is an experience that nourishes the mind and helps us learn more about ourselves and the world around us. Books can take us on adventures without even leaving the comfort of our homes, they build communities. In an oversaturated, fast-paced world of media and technology, books hold the key to the happiness and thrill that many of us seek in our lives. 

 

Becca Baitel

Muhlenberg '23

Becca is a junior student at Muhlenberg interested in studying Media and Communication and English with hopes of becoming a Speech Therapist! In her free time, you can find her mindlessly scrolling through the Cats of Instagram page, writing poetry, meditating, or curled up with a book and tea!
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