One of my favorite things to do after moving into a new home is to open my boxes and find all those little nothings that are everything to me. It’s like opening a treasure chest filled with precious gold and gems; except that, to me, it’s filled with even more priceless items. The boxes are filled with memories, with laughter, with barbie games played as little girls with my sister, with stuffed animals that dad would always make fun of how many I had, and yet he would buy me the next one…and those boxes were always filled with books. Books and books and books. Those were probably my favorite boxes to open. Holding my books again brought me comfort, joy, and that capacity to be lost in another world. Those boxes would take me the longest to empty, as I would start to read the books again as I unpacked. I’d read my favorite passages, or even the entire book (not the most practical way to unpack!), and I would start to feel more at home. I loved the smell of my books, the sound of the pages turning, the creases in my favorite books, that were read over and over…I loved the pages that were crinkly from being turned time and time again.
In a world where kindles, ipads and other technology is taking over books, I feel a profound sadness at such a loss. As practical as these items may be, as many books as you can carry with just one thin screen, I could never convert to that. I love every aspect of reading an actual book. The smell, the sight, the sounds…I love to buy a new book, but probably my favorite books are the old ones. The ones I’ve owned the longest, the ones with the greatest number of creases in the binding; the ones that were gifts that I read over and over. The ones that contain memories: my dad leaving on a business trip the morning of my birthday, but waking me up to say happy birthday and to put the next book of one of my favorite series on my night table; the ones that were my parents’ before me – like half of my Chronicles of Narnia, which I devoured long before the movies were even an idea; like our Harry Potter books, that the whole family read and fought over who would get to read the next one first; like when we were little kids, cozy in bed and waiting for that wonderful moment when mom would come read one of our favorite books with us (we always were the best little monkeys in the world!). All those memories and more.
It’s because of all those memories that one of the hardest things for me to do is to throw away a book I love. But sometimes there comes a time when it must go – when there is no more space to store it and it is no longer being read…but no matter how much time it’s been since I’ve read it, it is still a heartbreaking thing to throw away a book that was part of my childhood, part of my teenage years. If I had eternal space I would probably keep all those books that meant something to me at some point in my life. Books hold so much more than words and stories.
Books have been passed down in our family, from my sister and I to our brother – Enid Blyton mysteries that I would go hunting for in used book stores, that I would jump for joy for when mom pulled one out from behind her back as a surprise gift; Ken Follet’s and the like that I would watch my dad read when I was young and wonder how he could read such a big and complex book – I understood how and devoured those too.
My favorite part about reading a book is just getting lost in it completely. Being transported into the book, oblivious to your surroundings and to the time passing by. I love being completely enraptured by a book, pulled into the story, drawn to the characters. It’s a beautiful love story for the duration of the book, and then at the end it is a bittersweet return to reality. The fulfillment of reaching the end of the journey, but the sorrow that the journey had to come to an end.
And so ends our journey today. I couldn’t help but share my outpouring of love for books, brought on by seeing countless ads for new platforms to read books on, and my sorrow at what that means for books and bookstores, which are some of my favorite places. As I said earlier – books hold so much more than words or stories; if we reduce them to just that, then we take away the heart and soul of what they truly are.