bookstores are kind of my thing. every city that i visit i try to find an old and interesting bookstore to spend hours browsing in. buying books at these places are what i collect from my journeys, a classic novel here and a compelling societal analysis there.

last fall i spent a week wandering through the beautiful city of paris. it was my second time there and i was absolutely thrilled to be back, meandering past sidewalk cafes full of serious types drinking coffee and sweet smelling patiseries.

it was our third day in the city that my wonderful companion hannah and i decided to go off in search of the shakespeare bookstore, one of the most famous and well known in all of paris. hannah and i spent hours engrossed in our search for books there. the rooms were packed with all types of writing and all types of people browsing. more than once i would find a book that looked promising and sit off to the side and delve into it, only to find that it wasn’t quite what i was looking for.

fast forward a few hours: i’m still browsing the store, though with less vigor that before, not quite finding anything that “clicked” with what i was searching for. hannah is heading up to the front to pay and as i turn around to follow her, i see it: john steinbeck’s east of eden. the biblical imagery of the title alone, of cain leaving the presence of the lord and settling in a land “east of eden”, pulled me towards it. i didn’t even skim the back or flip through random pages, i just knew that i had found the book that would accompany me the rest of my time in paris.

and accompany me it did: in cafes drinking coffee, sitting in gardens soaking up the sun, on a train heading to an exquisite chateau, and even on the plane ride back to greece. this book became my companion for the rest of my time abroad; every time i felt disconnected i would go to it and read, finding comfort in thoughts of paris and intense biblical allusions.

here i am now, in tiffin ohio, and still i feel steinbeck’s pull, calling me back to paris and memories of a simpler time. i may not be in paris anymore, but each time i go back to this book i go back to the me i was in paris: a woman swept up in adventure, independent and slightly brash, and with a good book along for the ride.