Monday, January 24, 2011

And Refereeing the Match: Holly Hobbie

I grew up in a house overflowing with a love of reading. What it didn't overflow with was books.

Why would anyone buy books? We had all the books we could possibly read from the Brighton Town Library. My mother, an elementary school teacher, made sure of it. On Wednesday while we were at school, at the spots on the dining room table where my siblings and I each stacked lunchboxes, permission slips, homework folders, etc., my mother would leave a fresh stack of library books that she'd selected for us that day, topped with a candy bar. No wonder I've always considered reading to be so sweet.

Because of Mom's devotion to the library (my dad was and continues to be a one-book-a-year guy, but he never falls short of that goal) my parents didn't own a lot of books and rarely bought them for the kids. That the one bookshelf in our family room held a hard-bound first edition of To Kill A Mockingbird told me more about the social import of that book than any review.

Maybe it felt like an act of rebellion to buy books.  All I know is that as I got older, I couldn't stop buying them, getting my new treasures home to slap them with a Holly Hobbie book plate and give them a rating. (Nancy Drew's Moonstone Castle Mystery: 9. Very Good.)

Now I live in a house with so many books that they are found on the ping pong table, on the back of the toilet, and underneath couches. We buy books at our local bookstore, from the Scholastic book sale, at airports and at readings. I have spent serious time thinking about how we could glue books together to make furniture, like this guy does

It's fair to say that I treasure books as artifacts, especially having written a novel that now lives in a drawer. Every one of them represents the author's triumph over resistance, over doubt, over fear. (Ok, maybe not Snooki's debut novel.) I want to support both the authors who have made it through the fire of creation, and the bookstores who care about the words on the page. Particularly in the perilous world that is modern publishing and small business ownership, I try to put my money where my mouth is. So I spend a lot of money on books.

Then I think about the librarians. I've worked with, for, and around librarians for a huge chunk of my professional life, and hold them in the highest regard. Savvy about finding and using information and invariably interested in all sorts of things I've never even heard of, librarians sometimes seem like the Key Masters of the Universe. Whether it's a corporate librarian who can reel off the names of six different data sources for researching Chinese private company data, or the children's librarian at the Montclair Library who can run an after school art event and recommend YA literature simultaneously, they either have the answers or can tell you where to find them. Libraries are also big buyers of new books.

But of course library budgets, public and private, are always under pressure. How do you show that libraries and their staff matter? By using them, frequently, like my mom. Taking out tons of books to read, every week.

But I don't need to go to the library if I'm buying the book.

Sister! Daughter! Sister! Daughter!

Here are some alternatives I've considered:
1. Buy the book and then  borrow it again from the library, just on principle
2.  Forgo buying the book in favor of checking it out of the library (also more environmentally friendly) and then send the author a thank you note and a check for 9% of the cover price (which is about what they see)
3. Read Snooki's book and gouge out my eyes so I never have to read again.

I don't know what the answer is. If I start thinking about how Kindles and Nooks figure in I get a twitch in my eye. I never in my life thought I'd have to pit authors against librarians in an existential Celebrity Death Match in my head.

Honestly, hasn't anyone written a book on this subject yet?


  1. But if someone has written it, will you buy it or check it out?

  2. I'll ask Snooki to summarize it for me.

  3. Oh, Hollie Hobby. How I loved your bonnet!

  4. So vast, so deep, so full of book judgments.

  5. I couldn't agree more - I'm torn between donating all of our books, but then I feel we're giving in to the electronics-are-supreme culture. Plus they look so nice on the shelf. Maybe I'll start making furniture...

    Btw, what is this "post comment as"? I never know what to pick.

  6. Books are invaders from outer space. When I moved into my motorhome last October, I allowed myself space for 36 books. When I lifted into orbit, I had 150. In a motorhome? Geesh.

  7. Books become friends! They have characters that need to share my shelves!

  8. Thank you for your kind comment on the post I wrote about my mom. It means more than you know.

  9. There's something about picking up a book I loved in college, and reading my own hand in the margins, that the iPad simply cannot replace. It reminds me where I was when I read the thing.

  10. Dear Nan,
    What 70's girl doesn't love her Holly Hobbie? I remember one Christmas where Santa brought a HH kitchen set, PJs, AND a life size rag doll. Heaven.

    I too have a love affair with books but I am slowly migrating to the dark side with our Kindle. While there are drawbacks (can't pass a book along to friends, no book signings or inscriptions, and cost of books-not that inexpensive) I love the portability. No more schlepping and damaging tons of books on vacation. I've also been working hard on downsizing my physical book collection instead if buying more bookcases. Yes, books are tactile and raise deep emotions. But my e-reader is saving trees and space in my tiny home.

    As I downsize my life I think carefully about every purchase. Books will always have an important role in my life but there's more than one way to savor them.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...