Focus on: Reflections of a Bibliophile

I’ve mentioned my love of reading in earlier posts, and wanted to explore the topic a bit more..  I don’t remember when my fascination with books first began, but the earliest memory I have of a special book was the Christmas I received The Shirley Temple Treasury.  It was in 1961, according to the date inscribed on the title page in my childish handwriting.  This book contained four stories, including Heidi and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and the illustrations were accompanied by pictures from her movies of the same name. As you can see, in the picture above, I still have the book today  Somewhere along the way, the front cover was lost, but I fashioned a new one using the title page, my printer and clear contact paper.

As a child (and even today) I love series books.  You really fall into other worlds when you can read several books with the same characters. I read The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew,, Cherry Ames, Student Nurse and being a science fiction lover,  I read my cousin’s copies of The Adventures of Tom Swift.

As an adult, Star Wars novels  form my largest collection,  followed by the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters, the Dirk Pitt novels by Clive Cussler and I’ve recently discovered the Honor Harrington novels by David Weber. If you are familiar with any of these characters, you can see how eclectic are my tastes, from a woman archaeologist,

My Star Wars Book
Collection

circa the early 1900s (Amelia Peabody) to the adventures of an ocean explorer, present day (Dirk Pitt) to a starship commander, future setting (Honor Harrington) and, of course, the ongoing story of the lightsaber wielding Jedi. I routinely scour Amazon for word of a new novel from any of these authors.

My favorite novel of all time is Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell I  love strong female characters  and Scarlett O’Hara is certainly that.  I don’t know how many times I’ve read this book, but each time it’s like a visit with old friends.  Recently my husband gave me the ultimate treasure – a two-volume copy of the book, with page edged in gold leaf and an attached ribbon bookmark, gold embossed cover and illustrations. Needless to say, it has become one of my most prized possessions.  My second favorite novel is To Kill A.Mockingbird by Harper Lee, one of the few school assigned novels I really enjoyed reading.  Scout Finch is every inch a strong female character despite her young age.  And my third favorite book is The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter.  This one made me laugh out loud and cry real tears.

When eReaders first appeared on the market at first I wasn’t sure if I would like them.  To me much of the delight in a book is in its actual physical presence.  I like the way they look, the way they smell and the weight of them in my hand.  I also like to see them displayed on our bookshelves.  My husband and I have amassed quite a few books in our 36 years together.  We even bought a library wall complete with a moving ladder to reach the higher shelves.  But the lure of being able to grab a book out of thin air, seconds after I’ve discovered it, and start reading it immediately, is far too strong for a bibliophile like me to resist.  And they are a great alternative to lugging big, heavy books .  I recently downloaded a large photography guide, much easier to include with my camera equipment on my Kindle..  When travelling I can take a variety of books and magazines, all in one slim volume  (and yes, I have a copy of Gone With the Wind on my Kindle).  But I still buy real books.  Sometimes I just miss turning a page.  And a real book never requires recharging!

our library wall

As a parent and an educator, I know the how important an interest in reading is –  reading is the foundation of all learning.  How to interest you’re child in reading?   It’s really very easy.  First of all, give them books as early in their lives as you can.  There are plastic books that can be teethed on, sturdy, chunky cardboard books that can take a lot of punishment.  There are books for the tub, delightful pop-up books to catch a child’s eye, even books with handles for easy toting around.  Second, read to them . Read their books to them, read poetry to them (I love the poems of A.A, Milne).  Read Dr. Suess books to them – the rhythm and rhyme of these books are amazing and the words intriguing, so they easily capture a child’s interest.  Take them to story time at the local library.  The storytellers there are often quite good, and they use puppets and other props to entertain –and it’s free!   And equally important – let them see you reading.  When you make a trip to the library or bookstore, don’t forget to grab a book for yourself.  It doesn’t matter what you read  – cookbooks, magazines, the back of the cereal box,  just let them see you read.  Children imitate their parents and will soon want to figure out the process of reading for themselves.

My daughter-in-law picks me up once a week to spend the day with my grandchildren.  One day I hopped in the car with a book for each of them, and it quickly became a ritual.  When I get in the car now, I hear my little grandson ask, “Grams, do you have a book for me?”  Music to my ears.  If I had only one legacy to leave my grandchildren, it would be the gift of reading and a love of books. With a good foundation in reading, the world is, as the saying goes, their oyster.

I sometimes get frustrated because I fear there is not enough time  in one lifetime to read everything  I want to read. A while back, a friend of mine gave me a bookmark with a quote by Jorge Luis Borges.: I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.  I hope he’s right.  Maybe there will be enough time after all.

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