Thursday, December 06, 2007

So many books, so little time.

This interesting essay about unwanted books is well-written and fascinating.

I love books, bookstores, and libraries. My mother is a librarian and worked for many years in the Dallas Independent School District, primarily at Phyllis Wheatley Elementary. My brother and I as children were initiated into the arcane lore of the Dewey Decimal System at a very early age. We both learned to read prior to kindergarten.

Mom also taught us, as well as our children, the correct way to turn a page and yes, there is a correct way. You carefully select the top page of your book from the upper right hand corner and tenderly draw your finger towards you along the edge of the page as you turn it. It's not hard, but it is specific and intentional. It teaches you to value not only the words, but to respect the physical repository itself, the actual book.

I love the crisp, fresh smell of a new book, both hardbacks and paperbacks. And I also like the musty smell of an old book, especially one that has perhaps not been cracked for decades. I have a small collection of antique hymnals that I love to read through from time to time.

I own quite a few books and, generally, I am loathe to part with any of them, even the bad ones. Some of my favorites are obscure, old novels like John Brick's The Rifleman and Piers Anthony's Sos the Rope. Some I read over and over, like Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. For others, only once is necessary, like Neal Stephenson's excellent but exhausting Baroque Cycle trilogy .

I have a special bookshelf on which sits those waiting to be read. Currently in que we find Tony Dungee's autobiography, Donald Miller's Through Painted Deserts, Julia Cameron's The Right to Write, Philip Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew, and, I think, some random John Grisham novel.

Like most bibliophiles, I have classics on the shelf that I need and want to read, and I have stupid, poorly written trash that I rather wish I hadn't read. I like what I like and I feel no compulsion to pretend that I like books that I don't like. I don't care for the writing of either Bill Bryson or Dave Eggers, for example, in spite of how popular they are. Some of my current favorite authors include John Scalzi, Neal Stephenson, William Blake, and Donald Miller. In the recent past, they have included William Gibson, Bruce Feiler, Randy Alcorn, and Michael Chabon.

My brother has the largest collection of science fiction and fantasy books that I have ever seen or heard of. And, of course, they are carefully organized and properly shelved . Mine used to be similarly arranged, but some maintenance is currently required. Fortunately, my mom doesn't come into my home office wherein my books reside.

I keep an ongoing list of books that I want to read and at this time of year, especially, I like to give and receive books as gifts. I also enjoy buying a new book at the airport, when I'm on my way to fly somewhere, knowing that I'll be held inert and captive for a couple of undisturbed hours. Except for my Bible, I seldom take any books with me when I travel, specifically so that I can indulge in this little spontaneous pleasure.

What are your favorite books? Either something you have recently read that moves you, or something you read in years past that has stuck with you in some way or another. Some books, read at the right time of life, can really shape the way we think and the way we see the world. What books do that for you?


IzzyBeth said...

What a great post! I'm very excited to say that I'll get BACK into reading now that my Masters is complete.

A book I read recently that was very captivating was "Water for Elephants". Very unique.

I also must admit that I love the Harry Potter books. I really like fantasy novels and these are very well written with a great message. (I've read the whole series several times.) And when books can get THAT MANY children excited about reading - well then, I am all for it.

I'm also a Shel Silverstein poem junky and love reading his works to my kids.

Nicholas Sparks is my favorite airplane reading - but I always cry at the end, so its kind of embarrassing. :-)

GPIKE said...

Through Painted Deserts is pretty good. Not as good as Blue Like Jazz but still a page turner.

I meant to bring out David Crowder's Everyone Wants to go to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die at Thanksgiving but totally forgot. I'll put it in with our Christmas gifts that we will be shipping out soon.

This time of year I have to resist the urge to buy new books for obvious reasons. So I'm running back through Alan Dean Foster's Flinx series. Pretty entertaining stuff for 35 year old books.

jeff said...

I love books that make me think. Even if they are largely boring books, if I can get a paragraph that changes my understanding on something, I'm all for it. I mostly read theology and history but

I'll take an occassional diversion into classics, The Mill on the Floss got me. Anything by George Elliot is gonna be a good fiction read.

Then there's the stupid book section that I also love. Patrick McManus and Douglas Adams top the charts there. Ah yes, I could go on but I'll stop.

DaveG said...

When I was a kid, I was a horrible dog-ear placemarker. My Dad quickly broke me of that awful and hugely anti-social habit. Now my wife laughs at the collection of things I will grab to use as bookmarks, even in magazines.

My favorite book that I still haven't yet read all the way through:

A Short History of Nearly Everything: Special Illustrated Edition. - Bill Bryson

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading An Imperfect Lens by Anne Roiphe. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and this book is about the search for the cause of cholera in the 1880s.
And then there's non-fiction--recent books I enjoyed were Welcome to My Country by Lauren Slater and Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin. The Synaptic Self changed the way I think about our brains, even though I only understood about 25% of the book.

As far as books that have shaped the way I see the world: The Gift of Pain by Paul Brand, Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, and Frankl's biography When Life Calls out to Us by Haddon Klingberg, Jr.

I'm with you on the spontaneous pleasure of purchasing a new book. I'm glad for libraries, as I have a very limited income, but still, it's so nice to OWN a good book (or as you said, even a not-so-good book!)

Barry Pike said...

Thanks, Eclexia, for your answer. Except for the Paul Brand title, I had not even heard of any of those.

A book on the brain that I recently enjoyed greatly was Michale Levitan's "This is Your Brain on Music. It was entertaining and very interesting.