I have a lot of books in my home. In fact, there are books in every room. I like books; not the kind that take up no space with no bindings or pages and lay hidden inside an electronic gadget. No, I like real, tangible books with pages that can be turned and folded and marked up.
I like the feel of a book in my hand and the musty, dusty smell of old books which have been undisturbed for many seasons. I like the outside covers of books and the printed insides and the dedication pages and the publication dates.
I suppose I'm old-fashioned in this way, but I'm OK with it.
I also like old-fashioned books; that is to say, I am quite fond of the classics. I love to revisit books that I have not read since I was child being read to by my mother or as a high school student or in college. It's always so interesting to see how I feel about a book or the circumstances of the story or how I view a particular scene as an adult in comparison to my child self.
This is no trouble since I have kept many of my books over the years. I simply peruse my book shelves, going room to room, until I settle upon a title. Some books are well-loved and well-worn, such as my beloved Jane Eyre. Some books have stood on my shelves for years, but have yet to be read. One day…one day…
During this long, cold winter; one filled with illnesses and days stuck inside I have had more of a chance to read and rediscover forgotten volumes. So, here are 5 books on my shelf, either just read or patiently waiting in line soon to be read and a few that are picked up from time to time with a passage or two read here and there.
Selected Poems by Robert Frost. Robert Frost has long been my favorite poet. I remember as a child of about 8 or 9 choosing volumes of Robert Frost at the library; I loved the words and how he strung them together.
Of course, whatever I understood of them then, has changed. And really poetry changed for me when I took a course on Modern Poetry. Ironically, it was one of my worst grades in English, and I took a lot of English classes, but it's one that has really stuck with me.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu. I found this book at Barnes & Noble in Chicago when Will and I were there in December. It was raining and blowing and cold and we were walking back to our condo and ducked in to escape the dreary weather outside for a bit. I have always loved spending leisurely time in book stores with no particular errand in mind.
I found a kindred spirit as I traversed the stack of books on a display declaring there was a gift for everyone on your list right there. We chatted as we had to keep moving out of each other's way. I, with a stack of books in hand, and he, with a stack of books in hand, – none for gifts, but for our own libraries. He said how he loved books like this on all sorts of subjects and bits of information; I agreed with him. I later heard his wife/girlfriend questioning a few of his choices and he defending his need/desire to read about math and psychology and poetry. I think he won the argument; after all, the books were quite reasonably prices for quick and easy gift giving.
But Barnes & Noble aside, The Art of War is such a fascinating and wonderful book. I am convinced it should be on the reading list of all law schools, business schools and military academies, at the least. There is such truth and beauty and calculated savagery and simplicity and complexity all at once in this ancient writing. This shall surely be a book that I often refer to and adhere to.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I am reading this now. I have never been a Jane Austen fan. I know this is surprising, if you know me, and know that I adore Jane Eyre. But to be fair, Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen have very different styles of writing, it just happens to be from around the same period and in the same country.
However, I will say, for the first time, I am enjoying this book. I have had the volume since high school, but have never gotten all the way through it. I had the same realization years ago when I read the Tale of Two Cities as an adult. As an 8th grader, none of it had meant anything to me and had been rather boring. As an adult, I completely fell for the book.
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. This book came to me this summer in a stack of books my grandmother had discarded. I picked it up out of curiosity and couldn't put it down. It was like nothing I had ever read before. It pulled me in and made me feel everything his characters were feeling. I had the same experience several years ago when I stumbled across Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking at a garage sale. These are books that will stay with me always.
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is a book that I had not read since my mom read it to me and my brother when I was around 9 or 10 years old. We loved books of adventure and Robert Louis Stevenson was one of our favorites. I read this book quickly because I started while I was in bed sick with strep and an ear infection.
I loved the complexity of the characters and the political divisions that added to the story. As a child, I picked up on the excitement of the situations and the adventure of it all, but as an adult I understand the relationships between the characters and all the subplots involving historical events.
My 7 year-old and I have been reading The Hobbit together, after his 5 year-old brother has fallen asleep. We are almost finished with this volume now. He so enjoys the adventure and characters in this novel. I will not be surprised if he requests that we begin the Lord of the Rings series once we get through this book.
I do love reading to my kids. It was always something my mom and brother and I loved to do too. We read all kinds of classics and series and adventures…so long as there was no cruelty to animals or kids. I simply could not take it; so, no David Copperfield; no Call of the Wild; no Black Beauty. I have still to this day never read those books, and I don't plan to either.
What's on your book shelf? What books do you enjoy reading with your kids? Over and out…