Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Mom: A Confirmed Bookaholic

    I have a little plaque in my den that reads:
"When I get a little money, I buy Books, 
if any is left I buy food and clothes."  
    I totally get it. The quote is attributed to one medieval scholar, Desiderius Erasmus, who lived in the fifteenth century around the time that Gutenberg invented the first printing press. Way back then a book had to cost an arm and a leg or at the very least the price of a house or a farm. I know this because I read somewhere that during this time period, the Cambridge University library, which was considered one of the most extensive libraries in Europe, only possessed 122 volumes. Can you imagine? That's why Gutenberg is one of my all-time heroes. I shudder to think how it would have been to have been born prior to the literary revolution that the printing press brought to the world of academia, an invention so magnanimous in scope that it has impacted all of our lives and is certainly a cornerstone of the education system as we know it today. After I discovered the aforementioned little known fact about the Cambridge Library in 1422, I counted the books on my shelves in the den and realized that I had long since exceeded that number. In old Erasmus' time I would have been hard-pressed to satisfy my addiction.
     My books are my friends. I have a few that I read over and over again, and I love them like I love chocolate: I can never seem to get enough. Others I keep on my shelves just so that I will remember that we were acquainted at one time; others I keep because they call to mind some particular emotion that they invoked in me that I cannot relinquish -- sometimes it was joy or sheer happiness, sometimes angst, sometimes a disappointment so profound, yet tantalizing that I simply cannot let the book find its way into oblivion. Sometimes I was transported to another place and another time or even felt that my psyche or even my soul had been altered by the words I read. These are books that I will often reread to see if my perspective has changed (and sometimes it does and has). Honestly, however, there are very few books that I do not find commendable in some manner and these unfortunate few very quickly find their way to the Goodwill box or (if I consider them to be trash) to the garbage bin, but this happens very rarely. I do enjoy passing my books around to friends and even strangers and since I have them stacked in drawers, inside cabinets, under the beds, in the corners, and in every possible place that you might think to find a book (even the bathroom), I am happy to have someone else find a space for them.
     I suppose I come by this love naturally. My mother is a librarian, even though she refers to herself as a media specialist. I am old fashioned enough to still call her a librarian behind her back because I love all that the word implies. Plus I don't think Erasmus or Gutenberg would find the title of media specialist too appealing.
    A few years ago I looked over several different reading lists to see if the rest of the world agreed with my tastes and found, surprisingly enough, that over the course of time I had read a great number of what others perceive to be classics (the Penguin list) or at least notable books (not that I liked them all). The book that introduced me to consider my reading canon from a comprehensive perspective was a book by David Denby entitled appropriately, Great Books (My Adventures with Homer, Rosseau, Woolf, and Other Indestructible Writers of the Western World). How about that subtitle? He must have had some pull with his editor to get all of that on the front of the book.

   We are belatedly celebrating two birthdays tonight for a son and son-in-law, so I fear that the stove is calling. I'll post my own personal top 100 books and then a few links to some of the reading lists I like on another post. Until then, Happy Reading!

1 comment :

  1. I am NOT going to look carefully at your list of 100 at this point as you are clearly an enabler for a confessed book addict. Yes, my name is Beverlydru and I'm a bookaholic. Seems my friends were aghast at my recent confession that I am reading 4 books concurrently. Well, one is a reread and we visit every few days... I don't see it as any more unusual than having 4 conversations in a day. : ) Really though, right now, none are fiction and I find I have to put down non-fiction to absorb what I read. Nothing like a novel that I can't put down. This has become a post instead of a comment.
    Happy Reading!


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