Last night I woke up at 4am. This happens only rarely now that I’ve retired, but when it does I know that just lying there and hoping to fall back to the sleep does not work well. Usually I get up, go into the TV room, and read. Fifteen minutes later, my eyelids droop as my mind calms, and I either wander off to bed or fall asleep where I lie.

I keep my library books on a bedside table.  The prior evening just before bed I’d finished the book I had been reading, so in the dark I grabbed whatever book was on the top of the pile.  It turned out to be Backpacking with the Saints by Belden C. Lane. A few pages in, I realized that this was a book that I’d requested from the library months ago, but it had only recently arrived.  When my local library does not have a book that I want (or the book is checked out), I can request it. When the book is in one of the libraries of the collaborative Winding Rivers Library System, it shows up in a few days.  When the book is not in the system, it can take months.  Sometimes I get an email telling me that the book is not available at all.  

I was curious where the book had come from, so I looked at the stamp on the inside of the cover. It said “La Crosse Public Library,” which is my library.  Apparently librarians at my library had purchased the book for me. I’d been told in the past by a reference librarian that the library sometimes uses book requests from patrons to decide which books to buy, but this was the first time, to my knowledge, that one of my requests had resulted in a purchase.  I cannot help but feel a little bit special.  I also cannot help but feel a little bit guilty.  I wasn’t especially interested in the book in the first place, but had seen it mentioned in an op/ed editorial.  I just wanted to browse through it to see how the author had meshed wilderness and theology. If it turned out that Lane’s book hit me over the head with The Holy Bible, I would have felt bad that my library had wasted some of its limited budget on one of my whims. 

At first glance, however, the book looks promising.  With chapters dedicated to Thich Nhat Hanh, Thomas Merton, and Teilhard de Chardin, the only reason I won’t actually read the book is that it is too far over my head.  If that is the case, I won’t feel guilty at all about the purchase. I want my library to contain books I don’t understand.

Steven Simpson