Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I haven't finished another book since the brilliant one I finished over lunch break today.  In fact, I just picked up the next one to start.  All I've done is crack the cover. That was enough to send me running here, brimming over with how much I love books.  This blog has been such a great exercise for me.  Not only taking the 52-week challenge, but forcing myself to log my thoughts on those books has been great.  I've put a lot more thought into the literature as I am reading it.  I'm excited to be at the end of February and actually a week ahead in the challenge!  And, now that I'm finally getting around to re-reading the Hunger Games set I got for Christmas, I'm sure I'll pick up the pace even more.  However, while so far this post has been a great update on my status in this challenge and how much I'm enjoying blogging, those aren't the reasons I logged on to write this.

There is something about books.  That intoxicating scent that overwhelms you the moment you walk into a bookstore or the way the spine creaks when you open a book for the first time. Those moments are irreplaceable.  I love the way a new book smells.  I love the way the pages feel.  I love how it's untouched, unblemished, waiting to be absorbed.  I love how smooth the cover feels.  I love how the spine is stiff and presents the smallest bit of resistance as you progress through the pages.  I love the possibility, the suspense, the knowledge that is waiting for you on those printed papers.

And yet, old books hold just as much, if not more magic.  I've inherited several books that belonged to my late grandfather, including a beautiful bound version of the complete works of Shakespeare.  I treasure those books.  Not only because they belonged to a man I loved dearly, but because they hold a piece of his personality.  The scent of those books is a mix between old printing and my grandfather's musk.  His tiny handwriting is smudged in the margins.  I love that the book I am holding in my hands is the same one my grandfather held as he read it aloud to my mother and her siblings.  As I hold the works of some of the great writers of the modern era, I can see my mom and her family lying on the floor around the fireplace at my grandparents' old farm.  My grandma is mending someone's torn dress and my grandpa is stretched out on the couch with the book in his hands.  Their family traveled to hundreds of far away places that way, and now I can be a part of that as well, even forty or fifty years later.

Yet, the joy of an old book doesn't simply come from knowing its history, but also guessing its history.  There is something magical about a used bookstore.  The scent is different than a big box bookstore, but still divine.  Each book is more than just the story on its pages, but also holds the story of its life, from printing press to the moment my fingertips meet its spine.  To see a stranger's thoughts scrawled between lines or a heartfelt dedication on the inside cover makes me feel connected to all those who have held this book before me.  We are going to share a journey.  They have already experienced what lies between the pages, but I am about to walk the same path.  Their footprints are left in the way of spine creases and dog-eared pages.  Though we have never met, we share the desire for this story, for this knowledge, for this experience.  Old books are a beautiful mystery that will never be completely solved.

I love my iPad.  It's wonderful for so many things.  I'm registered for a Kindle and hoping that some dear book lover gets Kevin and I one for our wedding this fall.  Technology makes reading easy on the go.  It's a lot easier to pack a small tablet than it is to pack a carry-on full of books.  And easier on the back as well.  Yet, I simply don't believe that technology will ever fully replace physical books.  I heard a guy on NPR the other day talking about how he believes in the future books will be come more like collectors items.  Only book lovers will have libraries in their homes; the average household won't own a bookshelf.  While I don't think he's completely off-base, the concept breaks my heart.  I love standing in front of my bookshelf and seeing my past, present, and future world lining its shelves.  I hope and pray that my grandchildren can someday know the same joy that I experience in opening a book, new or old.  Books have endured centuries of cultural change and, yet, they remain virtually unchanged.  I would like to believe that they will continue to stand the test of time.

"A love of books, of holding a book, turning its pages, looking at its pictures, and living its fascinating stories goes hand-in-hand with a love of learning." - Laura Bush

And now...back to that book...

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