Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thoughtful About . . . Book Lovers

I will never forget my shock. There I sat, an innocent, in the admissions office at my college. All around me were the usual people that made up my day--the admissions counselors, the office manager, the director and associate director. We were minding our own business, recruiting future students for St. John's College, a.k.a. the Great Books School. When out of nowhere, it happened. The new data manager (not an alum, let it be noted, unlike most of the employees) showed her true colors. "Tim and I are spring cleaning, and I threw out three boxes of books."

Gasp! The horror . . . The sacrilege . . . Oh, let it not be so, let not this blasphemer be sitting two feet away from me . . .

We just stared at her in shock until she started laughing at the matching expressions on the faces of the four of us in the room. "What?" she finally asked.

I wrapped my tongue around it first. "You threw away books? And you dare to admit it here?"

Now, it's no secret that we Johnnies are book-lovers. We make a four-year career out of collecting obscure literature, reading it, and discussing it in class. It's what we do. In a lot of ways, it's who we are. We are Book Lovers. We unite to sing the praises of all things bound in card stock with hotmelt and trimmed to size.

But there are those in the world who oppose our Creed. There are those who value Space and Organization above the wonder of typeset ideas. Some compromise by donating their unneeded books to good homes or libraries, which is an understandable decision. But some . . . some toss them carelessly to the side. As if they are . . . nothing! (Sob, gasp!)

Well, I am here as a safehouse. Just last night my husband erected four new four-foot shelves to hold the overflow. Now, most of these books that I so carefully placed in alphabetic order last night will not be with me forever. I am but a steward of them, seeing to their well-being until I find a good home for them, readers to devour their pages and write reviews for me. But oh, how I long to adopt them all!

In my quest to provide an island of safety for books of all kinds, I have developed several identities. I will answer to The Reviewer. The Librarian. The Bookworm. My keen ears can hear the phrase, "I need a new book to read" from a mile away, and my deft fingers will quickly pluck a selection from my shelves and deliver it to the friend or family member in need. It is not always an easy calling, but it is one I cannot ignore.

And we are training up another generation to take over our operations even now. As my itchy fingers dove into the box of books-awaiting-shelves the moment plywood touched brackets, my son and daughter were there beside me. Believing, hoping. And asking, "Mommy, do we get to keep all these books, or do we give them away?"

I caressed the spine of a novel just begging to be read. "These, sweetie, we'll have to give away."

A definite pout entered her tone. "But why, Mommy? Why can't we keep them all?"

A question to bring tears to this Bookworm's eyes. "Because, sweetie, other people need to read too. But don't you worry. Though we send these out, new books will come in to take their places."

I felt a little hand press against my leg. "I'll help you Mommy. I'll help you divide them. You just hand the non-fishing to me." And she picked up a book with a cover that declared it non-fiction and put it in the pile for the lower shelf.

My chest swelled with pride. They'll learn . . . and they'll carry on. It's what we do. It's who we are.

We are Book Lovers.


  1. Oh the mystical moment with the child and her beloved books. Ahhh.

    I've been begging for more bookshelves too. Some women go crazy over shoes, for me it's books. Last year I volunteered as a librarian at my kids middle school. It was ridiculous how much I enjoyed touching and reshelving all those volumes.

    My daughter too will keep the tradition alive. Not so sure about my boys. Maybe the youngest, but my middle child has eye issues that make it hard for him to enjoy reading. He's going through therapy, but I think he'll be more of a kindle-type guy.

  2. I don't know what to say. I'm still in mourning at the thought of books being thrown away!!

  3. I know, right? It ought to be a crime! I hate to even toss out unbound galley copies of a book. It just goes against everything I stand for, lol.

  4. I'm constantly torn between my love of organization/lack-of-clutter and my desire to collect every book I've ever read/want to read/may read in the future.

    I've finally reached a place I'm happy with. We have four book shelves and are getting ready to purchase another, but books I KNOW I'll never reading again (or frankly, that I just didn't like that much) get donated to the library for them to sell.

  5. I support donation, since it means other people getting to read. =) Not that I donate much other than duplicates. I just never know when I'm going to need to remind myself of something I read in that book ten years ago . . .

  6. Probably a coincidence, there's been a sad report from Wales this week about another use for books:

    Pensioners burn books for warmth

    Reminds me that both the ability and the possibility to read are also a luxury.

  7. I saw that, Sascha. So sad--on levels far more serious than the loss of books. Yes indeed, I am counting my blessings. First that I have a roaring fire in my furnace that relies only on firewood, and secondly that I can then snuggle up on the couch with a good book and enjoy it.