BY THE BOOK | The Joys Of Serendipity


Books come through the store in a relentless tide, which is great.  And they are all good books, since I am the gatekeeper against lesser works.   

But since everything is so interesting, I get caught up in reading instead of working (part of the job I say.)  This often leads to great rewards.  Like recently a book of essays came in from Joseph Epstein and I was about to put it in the “get-this-outta-here!” pile.   

When the front flap caught my eye.  I saw a quote from the poet Philip Larkin.  

“What is Phil doing on this book,” I thought?  I looked closely and realized I had confused the essayist Joseph Epstein with a different writer who was an economist.  So, I put aside my labors, went to the couch and read the first essay.  What a joy!  Joseph Epstein was a revelation; his essays are so learned and yet so easy breezy.  He starts out yapping about his childhood in Chicago (I love reading childhood reminiscences, Dylan Thomas has a great quote that goes something like. “I always ask people about their childhoods, but if they are not quick enough, I end up talking about mine.”) and then he sneakily makes a larger point and then chattily gives you a lesson on how to live well.  

Epstein was a college professor of English at Northwestern for his career, and he is steeped in book culture.  He imparts this lifetime of reading and thinking and teaching in such a friendly way, you wish you could get a coffee with him every Tuesday.  He has lots of books of essays and I'm so glad I found him.  It is so that way with books, there are so many great ones out there that I don't know about it's almost too exciting.  So welcome to my inner world essayist Joseph Epstein. 

In a similar way I recently read a biography of Jony Ive, the designer famous for his work at Apple.  The book came in, I was intrigued, I stopped to read a bit and was hooked.  What an interesting book!  Ive's early life was so interesting because his father was very interested in design and created the curriculum for British schools that included more design studies.  

Wait, I have to go, more books are coming in. 

I wonder what I will find. 

serendipity, philip larkin, joseph epstein, apple, dylan thomas, northwestern, college professor