Skip to main content

Forever Booked

The old family home where we spent many a family holiday together has at last been sold. Soon, we will sell the bulk of our parents' amazing library, long stored in that 1920s four-square edifice, some 2000 volumes collected over more than 50 years. We would be selling more, but my brother, sister and I have all picked out favorites that we don't want to part with.

Our choices, like our parents', are far-ranging: from literary criticism to poetry, from abstract expressionism to American folk art, from Texas barbecue to French Mediterranean dishes, from children's illustrated Bibles to Bonhoeffer and Borg. We have also saved treasures to pass on to my son's generation: our great-grandfather's copy of Leaves of Grass; books signed by Updike, Ciardi, and Rollo May, personally addressed to our forebears; and one of my mother's prized possessions from childhood: The Wonder World series of leather-bound, story-filled volumes.

Going through books is a good exercise for the mind and the hand. You think as you touch, you remember as you thumb through pages--some yellow with age, some marked by people you loved, their scribbled insights and comments now as important as the books themselves.

There is a great need and a fitting place for E-books in all forms. The Kindle and its mechanical brethren make great traveling companions, both at home and abroad. But, I don't believe that the digital will ever completely replace the physical.

Those of us who love and value books treasure them for many reasons. No need to list them here. But, I do feel a need to remind that we are physical creatures, as are books. We feel them as we read them, and somehow, those printed "leaves" that come from trees feel us as we touch them, turn them, gaze upon or read through them.

It comes as no surprise that I've already pulled some books from the sale piles that will now come back home with me. To think, to know that I can hold in my hand any combination of knowledge and wisdom, of image or puzzle, of tradition or iconoclasm; that my hands can hold what my ancestors held and that I can participate in the thread of their learning and reading makes me feel as though I am decorating the family tree with light-filled prisms.

I'm hooked. I'm booked. The right books do much more for me than "enkindle" my imagination. They do for me what William Butler Yeats said education should do for us all: not fill a pail, but light a fire.

Text, copyright Ysabel de la Rosa, 2010, All rights reserved.


Dear Ysabel,
You already know how moving this was for me. I'll be spending the weekend revisiting some of my favorites...and thinking of you.
Kim said…
We love books so much that when our friend emptied his family home that was full of many, many books all the way back to the late 1800s, we climbed into the dumpster and gathered all the books that he and his siblings couldn't think any more to keep! Oh we found lovely books because his parents were very learned and were journalists. Going through the books I found his mother's diary from the time just before her marriage to his dad. I loved reading it and after I did I gave it to him as a gift. He was so delighted he had no for a gift to me he gave me a gorgeous ring that he had bought his mother when he was in Israel which she wore on all special occasions. I feel close to his mom but never knew her. "Forever Booked!
iNdi@ said…
books win, hands down
although i will admit
that on the rare occasion that sleep eludes me
i do let Alan Rickman read to me
from a Thomas Hardy audio book
stored on my batfone
his velvet voiced enunciation does the trick
and unlike sleeping tables
doesn't leave you with a hangover
Dumpsters can yield some divine material! What a wonderful story.
Now, what is a sleeping table??
Anonymous said…
I'll bet that it's "sleeping tablets" ...
DolceDreams said…
Catherine led me here to read this...a beautiful post to books! I recently had a set of outdated Encyclopedia's from the 60's sent from my grandmother cross country...she was going to throw them out! I love books, my sons love books, and they were so excited to look at how we found information "in the old days :)"
ead on!
Yes, Anónimo, I realized that myself about 10 hours after I wrote the comment! Sleeping tablet . . . In the meantime, though, I've had fun imagining what a sleeping table might look like.
My brother kept all the family's encyclopedias. There is something delicious about diving into encyclopedias, something that feels like real travel . . .
Jody said…
thank you for this. Books create a world that we cannot survive without. As we need an altar on every corner, so do we need books on every shelf!!!! I work at a liberal arts college which boasts one of the most magnificent libraries in the country. Our students still read, thankfully!
I came via Catherine and so enjoyed to read your post...i do not think the digital book will ever replace the real thing. We need to touch paper too! It's part of the excitement when opening a new book...
oh you say..."hooked and booked" !
Bee said…
Amongst my most treasured belongings are the well-worn, well-loved books that belonged to my parents and have been passed down to me. A book holds memories of the reading experience -- which is something that a Kindle can never do. The book doesn't really breathe without its reader.

Lovely, lovely post. Every time we move house the packers GROAN about the number of books we have, but I need my books. All of them!

btw, I came here via Catherine as well. Funnily enough, I was just writing about Shakespeare and Company -- a booklover's paradise!
beauty comma said…
my favourite "book" in my parents' library is the six-volume leather-bound lexicon that my dad inherited from his dad. it's from 1911 so it will be a hundred years next year, and three generations of knowledge-addicts have worn it to pieces... i think digital books are great in many ways, but the lexicon at home is a lovely reminder of my roots and that our preferences seem to be inherited alongside the actual books. so i think you're right!

by the way, i was sent here by catherine at a thousand clapping hands =)

trudi, norway

Popular posts from this blog

Adventure to Anarctica this Spring

You're invited to my friend Robert Greeson's exhibit of images from Antartica. Enjoy the other-wordly beauty and wonder of this part of the globe in perfect, central-air comfort. I bet they will even have refreshments on opening night. Don't miss it!

Saturday, March 27
7 to 10 p.m.
Kettle Art Gallery
2714 Elm Street
Dallas, Texas 75226

Children welcome!

Metaphors that Lie in Wait

I just finished a driver's ed course to "make up" for a speeding ticket. I earned the ticket, fair and square. I was driving on one of those streets that, dog gone it, just feels like a 40 mph street instead of a 30 mph street. I'm not glad I got the ticket, but I am glad I took the course-- for reasons both practical and metaphorical.

In 1984, an 18-wheeler truck rear-ended my 2-door car while I was stopped at a red light. Despite wearing a seat belt, my body was thrown far-forward, and when it came flying back into the seat, my body's impact broke the car's seat. I was fortunate. The trucker was without his cargo that day. Otherwise, I might not have survived the accident. Even so, the injuries I did sustain changed my life forever. The tennis matches I planned to play with my son never happened, and I would never again leap gracefully in a ballet class. The experience taught me a lot about how quickly life can change, and how much change one traffic acciden…

A Cat, a Dog, and Shakespeare: The Perfect Sunday Afternoon

One reason I keep paying a cable bill is to be able to watch Turner Classic Movies. I had just finished a batch of Sunday chores and was resting a moment on the couch, wedged between Chatterly the cat and Gypsy the dog (an Australian Kelpie), and saw that TCM was about to air Julius Caesar, directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, and produced in 1953. 

I read Julius Caesar for the first time when I was in sixth grade. It was a great time to read it, because it seemed fresh and real to me, even though some of the centuries-old English was challenging. 

The movie made me wish that Joseph Mankiewicz had directed more of Shakespeare's works for cinema. The balance the movie strikes is oh, so totally just right. It does not go so far into cinematic territory that we lose the work's theatricality, but travels far enough by camera that it provides a sense of seamless reality only a movie can create.  The casting was brilliant.  James Mason was at his best as Brutus, and he carries the film on h…