I may not have always been a reader, but I love books. I’m a bit of a book snob. I love libraries for research and note-taking, but for pleasure-reading, I’m selfish. I need my own book.
I’m needy when it comes to books. I want my own margins, my own headers and footers, my own lines to underline and draw boxes around. I love the idea if borrowing a book in a library, especially if it’s an old book with a worn-in binding, and yellowed pages. With that said, I’m hesitant to even borrow books from friends, because impulsively, I’ll write in them.
Ironically, some of my favorite books are literary-themed. I’ve listed three here, (though trust me there are many others): Michael Chabon’s Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Travelers Wife , and Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love. They all either have characters who are librarians or writers, or take place in some kind of literary landscape. If you haven’t read these books, you should. They are filled with urgency, desire and a love for the written word, but do not ask me for my own copies, because some are signed and I assure you my pages are filled with my markings.
Oddly enough, I wrote a small note down in the middle of the night in a little notepad I keep my bed. The note said: look up if “Bibliophilia” is a word. It is. It means, “a love of books.” I’m not a lover of vocabulary, but of books, yes. Many times, I’ve thought about taking a book out from a library and saving some money on buying my own copy, but the truth is: I want to make the book my own.
I remember a few years ago, I was teaching 10th grade English and I was checking weekly annotations and in what I thought would be a teachable moment, turned out to be quite a personal one on my part:
STUDENT 1: [flipping through his book, showing me his notes and markings] Do you annotate your books at home?
ME: [checking for meaningful annotations and not just underlines and scribbles] Of course, I do. I always annotate.
STUDENT 2: [chiming in] Wait, you mean you annotate books you read just for fun? [Laughing]
STUDENT 1: Yea, why would you do that? No one checks your annotations.
ME: Because every book I read is for me. I take notes on what matters to me. That’s the beauty in reading a book.
STUDENT 1: What do you do with the notes you take?
ME: I don’t know. Sometimes they inspire me. When you annotate a book, you are putting your own experience into its pages. That book will never be the same to you.
Needless to say, it is for this reason that I don’t have an E-book reader. They’re just not for me, and if I wanted one, I’d be sad for my bookshelves. I can’t fully explain how happy I get when I meet someone with a big library in their home. It fills me with a sense of hope that someday, I too will have a big library. Now, I won’t name names, but I once bonded with a certain celebrity in their own home over two books I happened to discover on their bookshelves. One, an edition of Wuthering Heights, and two, Daniel Pool’s What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist—the Facts of Daily Life in 19th Century England. People do bond over books. Here, I’ll let you in on a secret: my heart did do a little flutter when I notice we had those two same books in common.
Like I was saying: Bibliophilia. If that TV Show Encyclopedia was still on television, it would’ve made a great “letter B” skit. (Do you remember that show on HBO in the 1980’s?) It used to be one of my favorites. I found this video of the opening sequence on YouTube in case you’re interested.
For me, there’s nothing like putting a pen, or pencil, to paper. Ironically, in my own writing, I always type. (I am a fast typist. I was tested once at 160 words a minute.) Sure, I know, you can mark things and type notes on e-books, but you can’t then put that e-book on a shelf and look at it. You can’t feel its pages in your hands. I will say that I love that the e-book is getting people to read more. I think it’s a fantastic invention. It’s convenient in size, in weight and it’s bringing the joy of reading into people’s lives who never read before. I’m just saying, it’s not for me. I’m too much of a “bibliophile.”
I’m one of those “weekender” subscribers to the NYTimes and what often happens when I get the paper is the following. I read the parts I like; I rip out articles I want to read later, and then I recycle the rest. These articles sit on my desk for weeks and then I read them. Often, they inspire a new poem.
Recently, I ripped out an article from the paper that featured the following image:
Matrices for the Romain de l'Université - Click here for NYTimes Link to Article
The image captivated me, and I sat staring at it for a few weeks. The photo came from an article about The Grolier Club that discusses a current exhibit on view until February 4th entitled,” “Printing for Kingdom, Empire & Republic: Treasures From the Archives of the Imprimerie Nationale.” When I finally read the article, I was intrigued. Not only was I fixated on the idea that the gold matrices in the photo were molds used to cast a letter back in the days of the printing press, but I was also intrigued by the fact that there was an exhibit hall, a library, and special club where this sort of thing was on display to the public. These molds, the whole concept of a printing press, and the history of books and letters (I’m sorry to say) is something that the e-book will just never have. Naturally, I’m going to check out the exhibit next week as the website states that January 24th -28th is “Bibliography Week.”
I want to go back to the idea of books. The History of Love is a book I came to reading late, as I was too consumed with graduate school, but hey, I’m not complaining. I’m thankful I got to read it in a time when it wasn’t splashed all over the media and in everyone’s hands on subway cars. When I finally read it, about two years ago, I knew I had to add a new book to my top ten contemporary novels. Not only does it deal with relationships, family, and books, but it truly tells a story about the love of books and the love that lies inside books: the love of the writer writing the book and the love of the reader appreciating the book. One of my favorite lines from the novel is the following:
“At times I believed that the last page of my book and the last page of my life were one and the same, that when my book ended I’d end, a great wind would sweep through my rooms carrying the pages away, and when the air cleared of all those fluttering white sheets the room would be silent, the chair where I sat would be empty” (Krauss 9).
It’s hard for me to make the time to read books during the school year. There are so many books on my bookshelves and my night table waiting for me. It’s a shame that they’ll have to wait for President’s Week, Spring Break or summer. I know it is lame, but I constantly find myself thinking about the fact that I know I’ll never get to read all of the books I want to read in my lifetime. Then again, if that’s my biggest regret in life, so be it.
Until tomorrow readers,