On the corner of UCL’s campus, there is a Waterstones on Gower Street. I would come to this Waterstones every Friday, as it would be the place where I would part with my friend after eating some of the free food generously provided by Hare Krishna nearby. Because the food would be mostly potatoes and barely, I would need a shot of espresso to get through the rest of my evening. Conveniently, Waterstones was right next to the intersection where we would part ways for our afternoons, and I would come inside to have my coffee.
Today, I came Waterstones to find The Agony of Eros by Byung-Chul Han, per suggestion by a professor with whom I will be doing an independent study next semester. After finding out that the store does not have the book in stock, I decided to spend the rest of my day in the store doing some light reading before I had to find my way back to the library and fill my backpack with the theory and history about Victorian conceptions of love and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. After wandering the philosophy section of the store for a bit, I picked up The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
I never really liked Alain de Botton’s writing because I think that many of his ideas are quite underdeveloped in his books, but I do like his writing style for his flamboyance that errs on the side of pretentiousness. Nevertheless, his ideas are one of the first ideas I have come across in love, especially violent love, and as a permanent resident of London, he has quite the status of a celebrity here. I probably won’t read his works when I return to the States, so I might as well read some more Alain de Botton while I still have the incentives to do so from the act of traveling.
I sat in a cozy protrusion to the outside where six windows surrounded a single table that was only marginally bigger than my desk in second grade. Outside, there is a man playing the bagpipes. I appreciated him for doing what he does, as I have often viewed street music as a means to make the everyday enjoyable. Today was no exception, so I sat down and worked my way through the book while occasionally checking my phone for some messages on Whatsapp and emails on Gmail. Occasionally, I would need to pee in the only bathroom in the store in the basement.
I have always appreciated bookstores for their ability to offer everything I want to read through a space that brought me comfort. I reflect on the times as a child when I would spend my entire afternoon at the Penn Bookstore reading books that I was never allowed to read at home. But, alas, there can only exist so many bookstores in the world because of people like me.