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

Life without Television, Part 2

I began life without television with relief, which was consistent Monday through Friday. The first few weekends, though, felt awkward, anxious, lonely. When PBS has good programming on Saturday nights, it is extraordinarily good. Father Brown, Phryne Fisher, New Tricks... Extraordinary acting, high production values, and I fantasize about the pudgy, brilliant priest just perhaps having an innocent crush on one of his special parishioners, which would be moi. 

I called a friend one Sunday. "Maybe television helped with my anxiety more than I realized," I said. She told me about her aunt who, after her husband's death, kept the television on in his "man cave" 24/7. He has been gone years now. The television goes on, everlasting, in his absence. I don't blame her. Much of my frequent and prolonged television viewing began with grief.

After my sister died, I would watch almost anything, especially late at night when sleep eluded me. I even watched Convoy with …

Glad to Hear It

This past week, Larry Wilmore and company mentioned Rachel Dolezol again on The Nightly Show. I don't remember who made the comment, but either Wilmore or one of the panelists said, "Did Rachel Dolezol do anything bad? No, she really didn't. Why did we get so uptight about that?" I was glad to hear it. Three cheers for being human.

I looked briefly at what's on Google currently about her and the now much-discussed Shaun White. I intend not to enter any of that fray mentally or verbally. I still maintain that humanity trumps color. We have a long way to go until we can leave our "paint by numbers" mentality behind, but we've made progress. Good changes can come, even in the midst of chaos and controversy. Maybe White and Dolezal will help us see that eventually.

As long as I'm here and continuing on the subject of color, I think I'm not alone in the fact that I don't like being called "white." As for my background, it includes …

Whose day?

Years ago, I made some collages using pages from a desk calendar from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The image that leads this post is one. Inside the hearts and flowers is a picture from the MMA collection of  a Japanese screen made in the 16th century. It is titled Tagasode, which means Whose sleeves?  The title comes from a 10th-century poem:

The fragrance seems even more alluring than the hue, Whose sleeves have brushed past? Or would it be this plum tree blossoming here at home?
Iro yori mo ka koso awaredo omohoyure tagasode fureshi ado no ume zo mo
The word haunts: tagasode. Whose sleeves? The question floats in my mind like a cloud on a still day. The sleeves materialize in my mind's eye. I hear them move through hushed air. I can imagine, though not name, the scent of the person to whom those sleeves belong. It's not unlike smelling the scent of your infant's clothes, or holding the perfume bottle that belonged to your don't need to open it... you know tha…