Thursday, September 23, 2010

Reading, A Good Life - Rose McCormick Brandon

It makes me happy when I ask my children, “what are you reading?” and they have an answer. Melody loves poetry and Shakespeare. Carson’s mostly into non-fiction. His favorite book is Tuesdays with Morrie. Peter is a fan of mysteries and self-help books.

David Estok, editor of The Hamilton Spectator, wrote about his family’s love of reading. He noted that reading isn’t about demographics, economic standing or cultural backing. “Reading transcends all this and more. It is about a way of living and life itself.”

While we were on vacation, Peter went into my den in search of “something good to read.” He found Disappointment with God by Yancey. “I noticed you made a lot of notes in it so I thought it must be good.” Yes, I write in my books, scribble in the margins, highlight, underline and star significant portions. My books look used.

A friend once lamented that she’d loaned a book to someone who brought it back with a coffee stain. I decided then never to borrow a book from her. My books sport little tears, stains and fold marks from turned-down pages. The best ones have broken bindings.

I loathe purging books from my little library. But a few years ago, my husband complained that I had books “all over the house.” Guilty as accused, I set out to purge and organize. The ones I thought I’d never read again went into a give-away box. Last summer, a woman told me she’d bought one of my discards from a used book table. “I enjoyed reading your notes as much as I enjoyed the book,” she said.

I’d completely forgotten the book but at its mention, I longed to hold it and re-read its pages. As I contemplated how best to ask her to return it, she said, “I passed it on to someone else.” A pang of loss swept across my heart and I almost gasped. I wanted to say, “How could you do such a thing?” but since I’d dumped it from my collection that might’ve been inappropriate.

Readers enjoy a greater sense of fulfillment than non-readers. When I visit my children’s homes and see book cases lining the walls, a book turned over on a night table, even magazines littered here and there, I feel a sense of accomplishment. Readers discover. Readers relax. They’re piloted away from everyday life by stories.

Annie Dillard notes in The Writing Life, it takes from two to ten years to write a serious book. In any given year, only a handful of people on the planet out of billions will accomplish this. So why shouldn’t we treasure the smell of paper, the snap of new binding breaking? Why shouldn’t we write our thoughts on the pages of a loved book?

A recent joy – my 1 year-old granddaughter Matilda, picked up her favorite thick-paged book from a pile, handed it to me, then turned her back, a signal to put her on my knee and read. Another generation of booklovers gladdens my heart.


Peter Black said...

Rose, this is surely a piece to warm the heart of book-lovers - readers, and writers - alike!
How I resist getting rid of books - even ones I've had for decades and never gotten round to reading as yet!
Thank you.

Rose McCormick Brandon said...

Peter, maybe somebody should do a study on people who can't let go of books - we could volunteer as guinea pigs

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