Today I headed to down to the Mall for the National Book Festival. I arrived with hopes of getting one of my Nicholas Sparks’ books autographed by the author, but my spirits quickly sagged as I saw six lines of people waiting for him, and was promptly told by an event staffer that Sparks was only signing his newest book. So much for bringing my copy of The Wedding. I couldn’t just jump the book sale line either – people stretched around the corner of the tent for that, too.
I picked up my token festival poster and checked out the Target dog, Spot, and headed back home before the rain hit. Annoyed at first because the event was so packed that I would have had to arrive at 8am if I wanted a shot at hearing anyone speak or sign a book, I left happy that so many people were there, because after all, it must mean they love books! There were tons of kids, too, which pleased me, because you hear so much these days about kids not reading as much, or reading crap like Gossip Girls and the like. But here you could find works by authors like Judy Blume, Julia Alvarez, Sue Monk Kidd, and Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried by this last author is one of my favorite books).
I ventured into the Scholastic tent and smiled at the Clifford the Big Red Dog banner to sign and bookmarks. I remembered as a kid in elementary school when we got the Scholastic catalog, a thin newsprint style, and I would circle at least 10 books I wanted. Nowadays I just add things to my Amazon list. The digital bookmobile demonstrated how you could download books online, as long as you had your library card. I remembered when my library card was one of my most prized possessions, and how in summers, I would walk down to the library in Madeira, Ohio, brand-spanking new when we first moved there, and check out a whole stack of books, week after week.
I was always a big reader. I read so much as a kid that my parents would call up to my room, “What are you doing up there?” because I would just spend hours upon hours on my bed reading, going through numerous books in one weekend. Don’t get me wrong, they supported me reading, and were the number one supplier of my books. They were the ones that got me started reading so early in the first place. But, seriously, I read a lot. At birthdays or Christmas, I would get a pile of new books, and my dad would joke that would have them done within three days. Usually, he wasn’t far off.
I remember my first books. One of them is on my shelf now, The Book of Goodnight Stories. It has one fairy tale or fable for each day of the year. It’s now mostly out of print. My grandfather used to read me this book about a little girl getting ready for bed – and she looked just like me. Now it’s name escapes me and I can’t find it online.
I read the usuals: The Babysitters Club series, Nancy Drew, some Boxcar Children, Thoroughbred series. To this day, my favorite series, which I still own, are the Little House books and Anne of Green Gables collection. I felt that I was Laura, and that I was Anne in those books. I connected so much with the characters, that I would read them again and again in the hopes that something would change – that maybe Mary didn’t go blind, that maybe Walter didn’t die in the Great War.
Then I became hooked on two different genres: Jane Austen (tie for my favorite author with Laura Ingalls Wilder); and historical fiction & non-fiction (within this, Civil War stories and WWII/Holocaust stories). I own every single Jane Austen book, and multiple titles in the other genre – and I continue to add in that area.
So enough about books that I read. I could go on naming the stuff that I like, and titles that are on my shelves. You can see just from the header image for this blog a sampling of my collection. But the heart of this is that reading throughout my life has provided something extra – something to keep an only child amused, something to stir my own dreams of being a writer, and something that makes me feel like I’ve stepped out of my own life for a few hours and become someone else. When I stay up until 1am to finish a book, or get a rush walking into a Barnes & Noble, there is nothing like it. For years, I had this magnet up in my room, from one of my Amazon orders. It had this quote by Cicero that just sticks with me: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
Anyone knows that the perfect gift for me is always a book. Anyone that knows me knows that the first thing I’d grab in a fire, after a photo of my family, are some books. Just looking around my little studio, I know that if I didn’t have two bookshelves bursting with books, I’d be lonely, bored, lost. But the books bring a sense of comfort, a sense of home. I can thank my parents for instituting reading nights as a family, usually in things like The Book of Virtues (great stories!), and for post-dinner outings to B&N.
Friends and lovers may come and go, but I will always have my books.
*To read more on my love of reading and that connection to my writing click here to the Miami University’s Best of Portfolios 2003, and look for my reflection letter.