How I Fell In Love With Books
Posted on May 30, 2013
From the comments from my Stephen King no e-book post and Digital vs. Print books post, many people made me think about what I love about books. Someone mentioned the memories that books become a part of and the connections we make with them, and I decided to trace my love with them. It’s a lifelong affair, and I’m not ready to give it up.
I can’t remember a time when my bedroom didn’t have a bookshelf. From Dr. Suess to Mother Goose, I had all kinds of books that progressed in size as I got older. My earliest memories of books was sitting on my bed at night with my mom reading to my older brother and me from C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, or Madeline L’Engle. The first words I fell in love with included magic beyond my ordinary life, and when I would step outside my door, I would try and recreate that magic as I played.
My first beloved book that was all mine was a children’s book about being a chosen child. As an adopted child, this book helped me learn that my family was my very own because they chose me. As I got older, the books got thicker and more complicated. The first book series I ever actively bought with my money was L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. I’m thrilled to find out that Sourcebooks has bought the rights to sell the series again. According to Publisher’s Weekly, “the house will launch its program in February 2014 with the release of paperback and e-book editions of the six novels in the Anne of Green Gables series”. So a new generation can fall in love with Anne’s world.
When in elementary school, there was a book catalog that would come out and be distributed by the teachers. We could take it home and have our parents help us order new books. Then the books would be delivered to the school and doled out in class. There was nothing better than getting my little bag of books. I also remember being so excited when we would take class time to go to the school library to pick out books. I remember the school librarian introducing me to The Black Cauldron series.
Some of my first experiences of love and crushes were through books. Judy Blume was a must for any girl’s bookshelf, but I also destroyed my paperback versions of L’Engle’s Austin Family Chronicles. Back then, there was no Young Adult category, but when Vicky fell in love with bad boy Zachary, I couldn’t help but take notice.
My love for sci-fi and fantasy was reinforced by my older brother’s love for the genres. Beyond being the person to introduce me to Star Trek and Doctor Who (the Tom Baker years), it was his copy of The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks that got me hooked on high fantasy. Every year, we tried to re-read the Lord of the Rings trilogy together, but that got harder once he was out of the house. Needless to say, those paperbacks were well worn out by the time I left the house.
Whether you are a loyalist to print books or a new convert to digital ones, it’s a good exercise to try and trace your love for books.
In high school, I got exposed to more and more of the classics. The first time I had the thought that I wanted to be a writer was after reading Edgar Allan Poe’s work. I could have been biased because of the family myth of being related to Poe. But beyond the possible family connection, his use of words floored me. I remember using his word “phantasmagorical” for a senior paper. Yeah, it’s no wonder I ended up an English major and English teacher passing on my love for the written word and the books students could hold in their hands.
So now, I call myself a hybrid reader since I discovered the convenience of my e-reader and being able to carry so many books in one device. Looking at my bookshelves, I realized that I have my books segregated into groups. Upstairs, I have my graduate studies books all together in their own bookshelf. On another shelf, I’ve got my childhood books up to the books I consider more fun reads, like Under the Tuscan Sun and Julie and Julia. Downstairs on display, I’ve got my collection of graphic novels all neatly lined up. I’ve got my American collection on a different bookshelf than my British collection. Shakespeare and Tolkien both have their own shelves. My young adult collection sits behind my desk. My fantasy shelf has a couple of displayed signed copies of Neil Gaiman books.
The one thing I can tell from assessing the books from my life is that I have a lot. Getting rid of books and letting them go is hurtful. And my husband reminded me that I have about four more boxes of paperbacks in our attic from my teaching days. Clearly, books are an important part of who I am. There are some I can pick up and just enjoy reading, and there are some that when I open them they transport me not only into the world within them but also into the time when I first read them.
So how can I reconcile the side of me that loves my books to the point of holding onto them with fierce loyalty and the side that packs only her e-reader? It usually comes down to what experience I’m going for. If all I want to focus on is the reading of the material, e-books provide an immediate gratification to reading where I can be a glutton in reading a series or carry around what would take up all my suitcase space if they weren’t digitized.
At the same time, I read about the destruction of bookstores and libraries, and my heart breaks. I hold onto the hope that Doctor Who is right about the libraries in the future, and that they’re full of stacks and stacks of books and not just held in one technological device.
Whether you are a loyalist to print books or a new convert to digital ones, it’s a good exercise to try and trace your love for books. What you might find is that they are more a part of you than you thought. For me, I dream of the day when I have my very own library room where someone can kill Professor Plum with the candlestick. I’ll know I’ve “arrived” when I need a ladder to reach my books.