The carpet’s in, most of the inside renovations are completed, and today I got to sleep late. No one was coming to work, it was dialysis day, and I planned on enjoying a day of relative leisure.
Even without setting an alarm, I woke up about 7. Unlike most days, though, I could simply turn back over, close my eyes, and go back to dreamland. It was heavenly.
Even when I woke up, about 8:30, I didn’t really have to get up, so I opened up the iPad Kindle app and started reading. One thing I usually manage to find time for is books.
My love of books goes back to childhood. My mother always told people she potty-trained me thanks to bribery. She knew she was onto something — she promised me Little Golden Books and lace-trimmed panties. I was hooked on books. Dad will tell you that the problem became not convincing me to go to the bathroom, but getting out of it. I have a vivid memory of my little potty chair and a rather tall stack of Little Golden Books.
In the summer before sixth grade I discovered the parish library would let me check out 10 books a week. I ran through books that summer like a drowning person seeks air. The joy of roaming the stacks expanded beyond the small school library I had access to in Egan. That was the summer that I discovered science fiction, the great science fiction of writers like Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Andre Norton. This was 1962, remember, so much of the science fiction of the 50s and early 60s had post-apocalyptic settings that reverberated after Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Other topics included space travel and exploration. I had a new love, thanks to that summer’s discovery. I still enjoy re-reading Heinlein and the others.
By seventh grade, I had exhausted the library at Egan, which actually included a high-school library since Egan had a high school until the summer after my first-grade year. My reading was voracious — anything that caught my eye got checked out.
Beyond the world available through library cards, I began accumulating my own library. Every Christmas my wish list included books. Depending on my interests and obsessions, the titles changed from year to year. Sometimes it was Nancy Drew books; other times, Trixie Belden. Then in 9th grade English we read Romeo and Juliet, and that Christmas I asked for three of the four volumes of Shakespeare’s plays that the Sears catalog listed. I guess the history plays only grabbed me in college, because that’s the volume I skipped then.
Somewhere along the line, I started buying my own books. For college classes, for graduate school classes, for teaching . . . for any reason at all. I didn’t really need much of an excuse. I don’t think I ever really got rid of any, either. Some were still here in Egan while others moved with me from dorm to apartment to apartment to house. Books followed me everywhere, but every time I moved there were more of them, and those boxes were heavy to lift and carry.
Now I find myself trying to minimize and downsize. What is hardest for me to get rid of? Books. They’re everywhere in my house in Lake Charles, in every room. I have double rows of paperbacks; some of these are so old that they cost $1.25. I have two 8’x4′ bookcases that my brother built for me. They’re packed. I have an old library bookcase that is nearly 8 feet tall and about 3 feet wide; it easily holds double-deep shelves. There are three other smaller bookcases, also full. And there are boxes of books I’ve got selected to get ride of. And that’s only in one room, the back “library.” There’s a small bookcase in my bedroom. There are three bookcases in the living room. I have professional books and books for hobbies. I have fun books, “junk” books. What I face now: the desire to simplify my life, to downsize, and to give some of the books away or sell some.
That goes against nearly 60 years of habitual collecting, but I am leaning toward paring down — at least as much as I can.
Even here in Egan I have books. My childhood books are here, and they’re staying.
Books are lovely — I love to walk into a bookstore with old books. It’s hard to resist, but I try. I am trying not to live like a hoarder, though for me the rooms would be filled with books, not sacks of garbage or newspapers.
The advent of e-books now allows me the freedom of buying books without taking up shelf space or floor space. I like that. Nothing really replaces a real book, but the ease of traveling with one device and dozens of books, that can hold even more books — that is attractive, believe me.
I’m one of those people who goes to sleep with a book in the bed. Who’s kidding? I used to go to sleep with half the bed filled with books. Now, though, it’s the iPad. One device but many, many books.
Tomorrow, one of my tasks is to take books out of boxes and put them back on shelves. These are not my books, mind you — they’re my dad’s. My love of books is a family one, you see. Everyone in our family is a reader.
Many times you’ll see us in after-holiday-meal stupor, sitting or lying around, napping. But each of us also usually has a book with us as we nap. It’s also pretty common to see us gathered in the same room, silent. We’re all awake, but each of us has a book.
Books were how I discovered the world beyond Egan, beyond Louisiana, beyond Texas. They’re how I discovered the pyramids of Egypt and the mythologies of Greece and Scandinavia. They’re how I learned history.
Every day, I read. Some days I may only read a few pages, usually at least a few chapters. Sometimes I simply read for hours, even all night, if the book pulls me in so much that I can’t stop until I”m done.
Just this week, I’ve read a new book on Hawaii and one on the real-life inspiration for the Downton Abbey series. That doesn’t count the new murder mystery by Susan Wittig Albert. And it’s only Wednesday.
Tomorrow the contractor will be back — if it’s dry enough for him to work under the house. That means I’ll get up about 7 a.m. I can work on putting books up.
But in the meantime, it’s time to grab the iPad and open the Kindle app . . . and throw myself into another book.