Do you remember when you first fell in love with reading? Better yet, do you remember the first real book that invited you into a completely different culture, emotional space, or time period? And for the introverts in the group, when was the first time you discovered that having a book in your hand is like hanging a “do not disturb” sign around your neck? Pretty fabulous, right ?! A book is an introvert’s best friend.
Books. Just the word conjures up a lazy afternoon, lounging somewhere comfortable with a good book and a hot cup of tea. But now that I think about it, for me that scenario meant I was on vacation, which until recently was my only chance to laze around with a book. But, thanks to COVID 19 shutting us all in, I’ve rediscovered the luxury of getting lost in a good read. I’ve also stumbled across some wonderful new-to-me authors and excellent book recommendations via Facebook book-club groups. My TBR pile is now teetering tall, and my credit card bill tells the story of the ease of online book purchases.
My personal love affair with books started before I ever stepped into my kindergarten classroom. I must have been about four when my mother first took me with her to the supermarket (Steinberg’s in Montreal.) The store—I’m forever grateful—ran an ongoing promotion: one give-away item for every so-many dollars spent on groceries. The giveaway included dolls and toys, but all I cared about were the gold-colored spines of the books lined up on the shelf: Cinderella, A Day at the Zoo, Pantaloon - the bakery dog. I remember how excited I was at the thought of picking out a shiny, new Golden Book. To this day I still have a few those well-used Golden Books stacked in a bedroom cabinet. On the same shelf are several books from the Bobbsey Twins series—birthday and Christmas presents—and one book that is a constant reminder of a childhood act of dishonesty.
Elaborate, you say? 'Fess up. Okay then. Here’s my confession. I was nine. A neighbor invited me to look through some old books he had stored in his basement. I remember walking down the basement stairs, trying to ignore the walls plastered with pinup girls and what were most likely indecent cartoons. As naïve as I was at nine, I was astute enough to pick up the vibe. I felt a bit uneasy, but the lure of a finding a new book outweighed any apprehension. But I’m wandering off topic, so back to the books. This neighbor, who really was a very nice man, loaned me a bright-red, hardcopy of Huckleberry Finn. So…did you pick up on the key word, “loaned.” Yup. You got it right. That’s the same book that’s stashed on the shelf in the secretary in my bedroom. In my defense, as weak as it may be, my family moved out of the downtown Sandy Hill neighborhood and into the suburbs shortly after the book loan, but yes, I still feel guilty to this day that I didn’t ask my parents to help me return that book. My book addiction overpowered my budding sense of ethics.
And since we’re on the topic of embarrassing book stories, I’ll share another, but only because I can trust you with my secrets. Right?! Years ago, a friend urged me to read a book she’d just finished: The Bridges of Madison County. We both fell hook, line, and sinker for the story line, and were utterly convinced that this tragic love story could be nothing less than the absolute gospel truth. So, old enough to know better, there we were, sitting on the floor of Bookman’s used book store with every copy of National Geographic pulled off the shelves, searching for that famous covered-bridge photo cover. In the book, that was the cover photo taken by the romantic hero, Robert Kincaid, a National Geo photographer. Sigh. We were so disappointed when we learned the truth, but that’s the power of books. They pull you into their world and make you want to believe.
I could go on about books ad finitum, but there is a cup of tea cooling by my chair, and my latest absorbing read, A Gentleman in Moscow, is patiently waiting for me to reopen the cover and continue on. So for now I’ll just leave you with links to a couple of my recent book reviews. My hope is that you’ll find something new to dive into and forget, if only for a while, the unsettled times we are all struggling through. Just remember to draw a fast line between fact and fiction.
The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly