I enjoy books for many different reasons. Sometimes it's story, or characters, metaphors, tone, political/philosophical/spiritual content, humor, information. Sometimes it is a huge, uplifting experience to read a book, and sometimes it's brief and casual, a way to pass the time. But books have been my constant companions since I was a very young child, and my life has been improved immeasurably by them.
When I was in elementary school, the public library that served our part of town ("south of the river") was in a trailer--a mobile home. They crammed in as many books as would fit, and somehow I was always able to find something I hadn't read yet. I went to school in the main part of town, and there was a grand library in walking distance of the school. I still visit it whenever I can--it's the historical museum now. That library has marble steps and heavy iron and glass doors, a chandelier and the smell of old books, especially in the basement. It holds precious memories for me; it's one of my favorite buildings in the world.
All that is to introduce this paragraph, the last paragraph of the latest book by one of my favorite authors. Joel Achenbach is smart and witty, and a very talented writer. I have enjoyed his work for years (decades!) and recently because of Achenblog, I have had the opportunity to get better acquainted with him, with the result that I have even more respect for him, and a feeling of affinity based on the fact that we have a lot in common--both experiences and opinions.
I don't know how many people, when they read a book, continue reading after the book ends, into the notes and end matter. But I do. And it was my reward to reach the last paragraph and have it be this:
A final suggestion for those wishing to follow up this story: Despite the powers of the Internet, which make it possible to find, for example, the full text of a Washington quote simply by searching for a phrase, there is nothing quite like browsing the shelves of a good library, where many fine books, too geriatric or obscure to be transferred to the digital realm, languish unread, in serious danger of being consigned to the category of lost information.
p. 302, The Grand Idea: George Washington's Potomac and the Race to the West, by Joel Achenbach