B is for Book

Being of a solitary nature, books have ever been a constant companion in my life. From the time at which I was told I wasn’t as smart with reading as the other children in my class, up until the moment I type this and (hopefully) beyond, books have been imbedded in my life in one way or another. While my early experiences with books were antagonistic and bullying, over the years I developed an uneasy understanding with them. I’d give more books a chance if they agreed to keep the antics of Dick and Jane to themselves. I didn’t need to know that Matt sat on a mat with his bat and his pet cat, thank you very much, but if they wanted to tell me about dragons and vampires and what on earth Nancy Drew was up to this week, that would be just fine.

It wasn’t long before books constituted the bulk of my social interactions and a full half of the time that should have been devoted to sleeping. Around this time I learned the benefit of reading by moonlight. My parents, who were at first overjoyed with what a scholarly child they were raising, were quickly dismayed by the deep, black circles forming under my eyes. Smart, bookish children wore eyeglasses. Sick, drug-addled zombie children wore bags under their eyes. My light-bulbs were taken away after 9pm.

By high school, I was voraciously consuming novels at the expense of my studies. I pridefully penned a few disasters. I knew I wanted to make these little magic parallelepipeds. In college I was accused of reading for fun. Accused. As if the only reading anyone should ever do is that which is mandated by another human being. Reading, and by extension learning, is only ever done on a voluntary basis. You have to want to pick up a book and know what’s inside it. Reading for fun, then, is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, at times I read for the pleasure of it, I read to be entertained, but for the most part I read because books are gateways into another mind. Books are how we communicate with each other as a species through time and space. Books are flammable little time machines and mind reading devices that can fit in a tote bag, in most cases. Books are goddamn magic!

It is the exceptionally old books that are the most magical of all. The ones so old they are nearly legend. The ones with cracked and crumbling pages, the ones written in dead languages, the ones scribbled by long gone monks with frost bitten fingers and cramps in their shoulders. These are little pockets of the past that have bubbled up from the soup of our collective cultures to float on the surface of modernity as proof that we have a history. Hand crafted and meticulously illustrated these old, old books pass up the knowledge of those who lived hundreds of years earlier.

Today, we have the internet, we have satellites and a probe on a damn comet. We have microwaves and vaccines and air travel. But books written thousands of years ago have given us something even better: a doorway into the past, and a way to carry our thoughts immortally forward into the future.

 

book of kells

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61 thoughts on “B is for Book

  1. Forced reading of books I had absolutely no interest in led me to avoid books until my early 20s. Teachers made me hate reading and I still resent them for it. These days, my wife gets annoyed with me if we go to a bookstore together, I find bookstores to be almost holy places and I can spend hours just browsing.

    • I think my 11th grade English teacher had the best approach to school reading: she put out a table full of 10 different novels and said that we had to read one, but we could choose which book we wanted to read.

      Now that I’m a teacher myself I can appreciate how much extra work it must have been for her to prepare ten separate curriculums for all the students who wanted to read what pleased them best.

  2. I love books and was a little bookworm, as my mother called me in my early years. I learned to read early as I tired of waiting for someone to read to me. I hung around the libraries in our town and dreamed of being a writer when I grew up. . .nice to meet you!

    • I think I had the same experience, learning to read to myself when no one else would read to me. And I spent most of my lunches in the school library as a child. Books are sometimes better friends than people. πŸ˜›

  3. I could have written most of what you wrote.
    As a child, I was accused of reading for pleasure too… and to write stories. Oh, well…

    I love ancient books, but also merely old ones. If I have a chance, I’ll always buy an old book over a new one. I don’t know. Maybe the glamour of knowing that book has a history πŸ˜‰
    I’m a reader of ebooks too and although I admit it is a handy way of reading, I still prefear a ‘real’ book πŸ™‚

  4. It would appear we share some similar traits, I was also a bookworm at a very early age and remain so to this day.
    I consider myself to be well read and well travelled and yet it was only last year, on a trip to Dublin and Kings College that I heard about said tome and feasted my eyes upon it.
    What a thing of beauty, in fact, it’s beyond beauty. Such a poor wordsmith as I can’t do it justice, it HAS to be seen.

  5. Re: to your comment about the teacher that let you choose 1 out of 10, that really was generous of her!

    And yeah, I got accused of reading too much, because it wasn’t ‘productive’… in general teenager angst and stubbornness, I shunned books for almost 7 years. Ridiculous, and how many books I missed out on, I’ll never know. πŸ˜₯

  6. Such a jogger of a post. Oddly my older brother was the book worm and me the hater of books until we were dispatched to our grandma’s one Easter in the early 1960s and he dragged me to the public library – Gran just opened the front door and sent us out for the day, aged probably 8 (me) and 9 (him). He sat me down and told me what was in each book he brought to me and asked which I liked best. Then he read to me for a while. When I was hooked he gave me the book and told me to find out what happened. If I got bored or lost he’d continue with some more reading. That changed my approach. And of course at 9 he wasn’t deliberately altruistic – he knew if he didn’t do something to let him read I’d be annoying the pants off him all day. But whatever the motivation I’m pleased he did.

  7. Books have always been my closest friends. We fight, share secrets, laugh, cry .. everything the book has given me. I am with you Njgamas.

  8. I generally love reading (and it really is my go-to refuge) but have a strange aversion to Shakespeare and the English classics (Jane Austen, Charles Dickens etc.) which is sacrilegious to most literary folk (forgive me)!

    • Nah, whatever you like to read is what you like to read. Some of the classics I can’t stand (Frankenstein, for example) but that’s true of pretty much any genre that I read.

  9. You’ve penned it down so beautifully! I’ve been a bookworm ever since I knew to read. My father was the one who always encouraged me to read. I still remember him gifting me a huge powder blue Aesop’s Fables when I was little. That’s my earliest memory of reading a book! πŸ™‚

  10. What a beautiful and elegant post on a family favourite; books. In our family a great book makes the rounds with at least 3 of us reading it, if not more. The mention of Nancy Drew brought back many memories of my daughter’s first real love of books. She read Nancy Drew during a car trip and I remember feeling so relieved that she too would probably be a reader. Thanks for sharing, Cheryl

    • My mom passed me all her Nancy Drew books, and a great deal of other books too. She doesn’t read much anymore, but when I was young she read all the time. I think my dad got angry at her for it, though, so she stopped.

      • My father never left his blue chair as he was an avid reader. My mom, surprisingly didn’t read, until my father passed away. So far in our family 2 out of our 4 girls are major readers. I just couldn’t live without books.

  11. Love the post! Like you I spent much, much time with books. Thanks for sharing. Books are amazing gifts. I hope to read yours someday. You have a nice way with words that I like to ready πŸ™‚ Keep up the great work.

  12. I used to hang a blanket over my lamp to dim it and stuff towels under my door so no light would shine through so I could read at night. πŸ™‚

    • Woohoo! Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Reading is a passing of mine and has been for a long time. There are few things I like more than talking about it. πŸ˜›

    • I bought those little mini finger flashlights from the Scholastic book orders. The ones you had to pinch to keep a continuous light on. Reading late at night gave me many a thumb cramp, but that’s how much I enjoyed it.

  13. What a wonderful post! I am a lifelong, obsessive reader. I’ve been in a reading rut the past few months, unfortunately. I had a moment where I thought – should I just give up reading for a bit?? I heard the words in my head and then realized I must have been having an out-of-body experience. πŸ™‚ Reading is awesome – thanks for the inspiration.

    • It happens. Sometimes I move on to another books when it does. I didn’t read for almost five years after high school and when I finally got back into it, it was as if the universe had exploded!

  14. heh
    I was accused of being developmentally delayed sometime around 3rd grade because I wasn’t reading on grade level. It didn’t matter that I was reading about six years above grade level. The counselor didn’t know how to deal with that and only knew I wasn’t reading the kind of books that kids my age were “supposed” to read.

    • That seems dumb and counter-intuitive. I know I wasn’t reading what they wanted me to read, so they put me way, way down on the competency ladder. Whether or not I COULD read what they wanted me to, or not, I can’t remember.

      • It was dumb, but it was Louisiana, and this was before I got moved off to special classes for smart kids. The woman didn’t know how to evaluate me other than that I wasn’t reading what the other kids were reading. Obviously, that meant something was wrong.

    • Oh, kekeke, you flatter me! I’ll have to hide this blush in a book. πŸ˜›

      Honestly, I’ve had days where I’ve come home and seen my bookshelves all lined up against the wall and thought, “Coming home to a house full of books is like coming home to a house full of friends, who all have something interesting or exciting to say, but will totally wait quietly and patiently until you have the time and energy to hear them.”

      • And that’s why we love them. No wonder so many introverts are attracted to reading! It’s so relaxing after a day of talking to people. πŸ™‚

  15. “books are gateways into another mind. Books are how we communicate with each other as a species through time and space. Books are flammable little time machines and mind reading devices that can fit in a tote bag, in most cases. Books are goddamn magic!”

    So beautifully said. I wish I read more, but alas, my concentration and ability to stay awake have waned over the years. Not much time left for books after my New Yorkers, Nations, and the NYT.

    Thanks for this. Feel free to visit me over at http://shrinkrapped.com/

    • I don’t think that books, specifically are what’s needed throughout life so much as the desire to continue learning. For me personally reading is the best way fir me to learn and absorb information, but everyone is different. When the hunger for knowledge and discovery stops, for me, that’s when living stops.

    • As I’ve said before, if you throw enough books at her, something should stick. The important thing with children, I feel, is not to limit what that literature is available to them. Kids need room to discover what they’re passionate about on their own. Leave kids on a bookstore or a library and see what they come out with, is my suggestion.

  16. Love your posts! Books seem to be an addiction of some sort. No matter where I go I come home with a few. And or course there is almost NO WAY I would throw them out…..NIO. Each and every one is placed in a new home AFTER I interview the new book parent and am 100% sure that the book will be loved and well cared for πŸ™‚

  17. marvelous post on the joys of a childhood filled with books. I pity those who don’t love to read. Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden were high on my “Best Books” list back in the day; Today as a librarian I don’t have much time to read, but still cherish those fleeting moments when I make the time.

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