I love to read. Absolutely LOVE. IT. When I was a little bitty girl, just starting school, I was reading so much that I’d get bored in class and read ahead. When it came my turn to read a paragraph, I’d be lost and the teacher thought something was wrong with me for not being able to follow along. She informed my parents that I was mentally deficient and was soundly disabused of that notion by Mom, who knew better. I was handed some more advanced reading, moved to the back of the class, and left alone, much to my delight.
When we were growing up, the TV was discouraged. We had one for a while, but any time we tried to watch it for longer than 30 minutes (unless it was Sunday night, when we’d watch Wonderful World of Disney and Wild Kingdom, along with popcorn and Fresca), Dad would get irritated with our slackery and flip the breaker (the panel was in his wookshop, where he was always tinkering). Eventually I gave up trying and piled on with the reading, which I think was just as annoying to him but he couldn’t turn it off, nor find a good reason to complain about it. (really? You’re going to complain about your kid reading? Really?) so he managed to attempt to get me to be more active by telling me to go outside. Because books are portable, I’d just go sit under a tree and read.
Books became old friends. Some of them I read and re-read, finding comfort in familiarity. Jane Eyre always gets her Mr. Rochester. Scarlett always returns to Tara. Christy always wakes up from her typhus coma. For a long time I quit reading, so much other stuff to investigate like Netflix or the Internet. SO MANY DOCUMENTARIES. But, recently being on the computer means doing MAAAAATH (How thankful I will be when I can quit complaining about doing it ALL THE TIME.) (I mean, I suppose I COULD quit complaining about it now but really, that’s not realistic), so I have returned to reading lovely, comfortable, and familiar books. I have also discovered Amazon used books ($4!), and Ebay (I look for the ones with cheap shipping). Also thrift stores. (99 cents, sometimes 49 cents!) and am populating the bookcases with the sorts of stuff I love.
And, like music where I have to buy an entire album and not just individual songs, when I find an author who’s written one book I love, I will buy everything written by him/her. Maeve Binchey is one I particularly love to read- she’s an Irish woman, and her stories are about Irish people, gentle and soft stories of life with people who have normal sorts of problems and relationships. John Grisham for the legal stuff and reluctant hero, Chaim Potok for the Orthodox Jewish perspective, James Herriot, Jan Karon, John Irving, and Stephen King for when life is bad and I need to read about someone who’s having worse problems than I am.
I like the orderly way books look on the shelf, a whole string on them by one person. Perhaps when I move, they will get shelved alphabetically. That appeals to my sense of order. A friend of mine likes to shelve hers heightabetically I’ve seen decorators suggest doing it by color, which honestly appalls me. I mean really. I recognize the aesthetic appeal but I actually READ my books. (Suddenly I imagine what would happen if I broke into the pastor’s office and rearranged his 26 feet of floor-to-ceiling bookcases by color. I’d be excommunicated, and deservedly).
OH THE HORROR
I don’t buy ALL the books, just the ones I know I will want to reread. Himself gifted me with a Kindle several years ago, and if i want to read something once, it goes on that. But the GOOD stuff, that won’t disappear in the Great EMP sure to happen when North Korea figures out how, that gets old school hard copy on the shelf. In the new house there will be a large bank of built in shelves- roughly 15 feet wide and 10 feet high. I don’t have what it will take to fill that…yet…but I intend to fill it up, with enough books to annoy my children and grands as they ponder what to do with all that stuff no one ever reads anymore. I’m hoping for maybe one bookish descendant who will see them for the treasures they are.
Himself loved books too. He saw them as tangible history, and if it was in a book then it wouldn’t be forgotten. I have many boxes of books that were his, and #4 has claimed them. Nearly all of them are history- he did love him some history and #4 inherited that love. I’m not a fan of history books unless it’s a biography or cultural history. Umptyseven years ago he bought me a set of books called “The History of Private Lives” and it tells all about how people as early as the ancient Sumerians and Etruscans lived- what they cooked, how the households were set up, what they did for fun. Fascinating stuff! Way more interesting than popes and military exercises, in my opinion. (Did you know ancient Egyptians married by moving in with each other, and their women had property rights?How progressive!)
Anyway, this whole train of thought came about when I looked at a stack of books I recently purchased from Ebay. Chaim Potok is one of my favorite authors, and I only had 2 of his books. For some reason I looked his stuff up on Ebay and there were a whole bunch of his books for super cheap so I bought what I could find.He writes like someone who speaks several languages, not really vernacular (like Stephen King) and not really standard English, and since they tend to feature Ashkenazim (Easter European Jews) in New York City, the wording of the books in is that sort of pattern. It puts you in the place, in Brooklyn, amongst boys going to yeshiva and women in long sleeves, with glasses of coffee and men discussing Torah. Now I have a whole stack of books and getting to read them makes me want to close the door on every other thing, and sit on the bed and do nothing but read for several weeks. Forget school, the garden, the New House, and disappear into a world very different from the Presbyterian one I’ve lived in all my life. (though I was told recently that Presbyterians were Protestant Jews) (Maybe that’s why I’m so intrigued by this author)
Anyway. I love reading. There’s worlds out there that only exist in the imagination of the author, and putting it into a book is the author sharing that world with everyone else. It’s this generous gift the author is giving to everyone, and when something is written well enough the reader can imagine themselves in it…well, I love that. Often my life seems so ordinary…in this calm rhythm that is so uninteresting…being able to enter into a place that has drama and change is a way to feel better about the ordinary, or at least not so bored by it. Don’t get me wrong, I really like my life even with the slow pace, but sitting as an observer in one of John Grisham’s courtrooms, or in the head of David Lurie as he tries to parse out Torah commentary, or watch while Scarlett O’Hara makes a mess of her marriage is a chance to live a little bit of drama without the risk of actually BEING a part of it. I like the kind of drama I can set aside like that.
What do you love to read? Who are your favorite authors?