I was thinking about books the other day when I was in a Chapter's store looking to buy a copy of 'The Borrower's' that I can read to my grandchildren. As it turns out I had to order it online because it's too old to be kept in the stores. Anyway, as I was looking around at other books - because you can't possibly go to a book store without buying a book, at least I can't - I found myself wondering what it is about books that so captivates me. I've always been a reader. I remember as a child taking my book and lamp and blanket and pillow into my bedroom closet, shutting the door and reading for hours. My family must have thought I was nuts but they didn't stop me. My parents, particularly my dad, was a voracious reader right up until he died. In fact, it was one thing we had in common and could discuss the various books we'd read and debate the character's and the endings.
The week before he went into the hospital last summer I was visiting him with other family members when he turned to me and said. "I've got a bone to pick with you." As it turned out what he wanted to chastise me about was the ending to a recent book I'd given him. Laughing I said, "I didn't WRITE the book, Dad, I just gave it to you." But he was so annoyed about how the author had elected to end a book with familiar characters that he made me read him the final few pages and then give him MY interpretation of the events. I honestly don't think he accepted my view - which was markedly different than his - because he just kept saying, "you think?". I remember telling him that when her next book was published I was going to ensure that she didn't take the characters where he thought she was heading and if so I wasn't going to let him read it! He died shortly afterwards but I'm sure going to laugh if his interpretation turns out to be correct.
But as for my passion for books - I really don't quite 'get it'. My parents never read to me when I was a child and we only owned a few books. The library was our 'book store'. My house today is filled with hundreds of books (not only do I love to read, I love to own) and I get great joy just looking at them, remembering the characters and stories in the fiction; the lessons learned and people 'met' in the non-fiction. I also write in my books highlighting phrases, sentences, paragraphs that 'speak' to me, and use sticky notes to make it easier to go back to them - which I do .... often. I remember the first time when, as a VERY mature student, I got my student card from U of T and was able to access the stacks at the Robarts Library. I can still remember how I felt to walk down rows and rows of books ... the smell, the touch....the honour and privilege I felt. I'm not embarrassed to say that I wept.
This is partly why I support The Children's Book Bank in downtown Toronto. The Children's Book Bank is a non-profit organization that collects new or gently used books and gives them to children. Not lends them as the library does, but GIVES them a book. One of the stories told is that a young boy came to the Book Bank and after he had selected his book he asked when he needed to bring it back. Upon being told that he didn't ever have to return it because it was now his to own he clasped his hands together, looked up and thanked God. Check out their website or drop into the centre... it's an amazing place.