Shelby Warner is a Reference Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read Shelby’s column in the November 8th edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.
My husband and I were talking about my next article for this column when he started reminding me of his own “reading journey”. I thought, “This is great. Why not have an article written from the reader’s perspective.” I asked him to come up with an article and here it is:
I love books. Sure, I’ve got a Kindle and find that convenient but, the truth is, I love books.
Books are treasures waiting to be discovered. When I was a kid, I used to think I’d find a pirate’s treasure in some concealed cove. One summer, at Lake George, my sister and I cruised the coastline on a hand-made raft fully expecting to come upon some long-buried fortune. We never found any but that same feeling of anticipation comes to me every time I browse the book shelves.
Sometimes I read just to be entertained. When I was young, I read every book on Greek or Roman mythology I could get my hands on. It was like living in a mythological world filled with villains having great powers and heroes to overcome them. Think of “Jason and The Golden Fleece”, for example. My grandkids have, as eagerly, devoured the Harry Potter series.
When I went to college and grad school my reading was given over to education. I had no time to read for pleasure. That phase of my childhood was lost to me for too long. But one evening I found myself watching the movie, “Where Eagles Dare”. Once again I was caught up in the action, the daring, the thrill of conflict. I noticed the movie was based on a book by Alistair McLean. I borrowed the book from my local library and, in the course of reading it, remembered how much I used to love reading. I borrowed another of McLean’s books and soon I was hooked on reading again.
I’ve never looked back since those days. Oh, my reading habits have changed. I went through every espionage book the library owned, enjoying Helen Innes especially. I found mysteries and, over time, have gone back for second and third helpings of Dick Francis, Dorothy Sayers, and Louise Penny.
Then, I got into non-fiction and began reading in earnest. I discovered in myself a great hunger for knowledge, a desire to understand how the universe works and humankind within it. Books on meteorology, oceanography, cosmology, natural history were all eagerly received. Why I even read Brian Greene’s “The Elegant Universe”. No, I speak in error; I tried to read “The Elegant Universe”, three times. Sometimes one needs to accept his limitations.
I am one of those strange people who liked history in college. History speaks to questions such as “Where did I come from? How did I get here?” Indeed, so much that happens today is merely recycled history. Understand what went before and you’ll have greater insight into what’s going on around you today. For example, read John Ferling’s book, “Adams vs. Jefferson: the Tumultuous Elections of 1800”, and you’ll be amazed to see that today’s troublesome presidential elections are not really so different after all.
Twenty five years ago I became a charter member of a small book club and my reading habits shifted again. There are seven of us in the club, each with his/her own reading taste. So all of us are reading books we would never even have known about. Our first book was “The White Hotel” by D.M. Thomas and next month we’ll read “The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want” by Garret Keizer, in between there have been some 275 great titles.
How can I leave this article without mentioning three of my favorite authors? Cormac McCarthy heads the list, for sheer use of language he is top of the heap. Bill Bryson has entertained me with the likes of “A Walk in the Woods” and “A Brief History of Everything” and, then, Charles Dickens, a classical favorite with “Bleak House” and “A Tale of Two Cities”. There are hundreds of great books on my list each one a treasure in its own right. Well, all except “The Cross of Frankenstein.” That one I do not recommend. But do check out Alice Munro’s short stories. She just won the Nobel Prize for literature.
So, grab yourself a book, check out the blurb, it gets the juices going, look over the table of contents and then flip to the introduction. You are ready to dig in and uncover new understandings or immerse yourself in new mysteries, even discover a new hero.
Thomas Jefferson once remarked, “I cannot live without books.” A lot of us feel that way. So, three cheers for our local library which provides so much treasure for us to discover. And, three cheers for the joy of reading.