Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Love of Books - Valentine’s Day blog hop

This blog is part of  Terri Long's Valentine's Day blog hop. Scroll down for other blogs in the hop (highly recommended - they are a lot of fun) as well as a big giveaway and raffle.

I vaguely remember a time, far in the past, when I couldn’t read. Even then, I was surrounded by books – our tiny living room in the Arizona row home was wall-to-wall with bookshelves.

Both my parents were “desperate” readers. She loved reading so much that if she picked up anything with text on it, we would find her, hours later, frozen in one spot, eyes glued to a book on Irish poetry or the old newspaper that lined the drawer.

In order to entertain me as she graded papers and did dishes, she used to put on records of Alice Through the Looking Glass. I listened to them so often that I nearly memorized the story. Later, it was the Oz books – the entire series, along with the Ruth Plumly Thompson continuations.

When we finally learned to read in first grade (from the old-fashioned Dick and Jane books – really) I loved it right away. The thought that those black marks on a  white page meant something was magic – real magic, that could transport me to different eras and countries in the turn of a page.

Did I say Arizona? Summers there were HOT. My parents scrimped all year to save up enough to take us to Ireland, and there we spent weeks in my grandparents house. There was no television there, only an old radio to be used for the six o’clock news.

As a result, my entertainment was books. My grandmother had old volumes of girls’ school stories – Angela Brazil and the Chalet school books. The volumes were filled with ancient Brit slang and funny, copperplate illustrations of females from a vanished era. They wore huge hair ribbons and dropped waists, and I loved them. They had names like Philippa and Mabel, and their exploits and successes were completely real to me.

I read so much that it became a vice – Mum used to threaten to take my book away if I didn’t wash the dishes or at least clear a path through the books piled up around my bed.  When I had my head in a really good story, I was lost to the outside. People would talk to me, and I wouldn’t respond. I wasn’t there at all, you understand – the book had wafted me off to some fantasy land. (Still, it must have been extremely annoying at the time.)

And did I mention the fascination of maps? (yes, I'm obsessed.)

The pages of those books were often covered in a soft “bloom” of age – yellowed spots that spread like lichen throughout the books. As I read, I inhaled the tantalizing scent of must and old leather. Years later, I would seek out that smell in old bookshops and libraries, and it never fails to quicken my pulse.

Now we have  Kindles and Nooks, and I like them as well. I enjoy carrying entire shelves filled with books on my iPad, and I always having a few books going at once. Still, nothing can replace the feel and the smell of those old books, as well as those gorgeous illustrations.

My dream vacation is to stay in Scotland or some rainy, windy place, in an old inn with soft beds and huge fireplaces. I’ll bring stacks of books and stay for a few days, just reading. Maybe I’ll take a long walk each day to compensate for the cream teas I plan to eat.

Who’s with me?
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tin said...

Dropping in from the hop!

I remember those read-along cassette tapes! We had a few growing up and that's how I "read" Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

I agree with your sentiment: I appreciate new technology but I think there is still room in the world for the old. I also love the smell of books, both old and new. ^_^

Happy Valentine's Day!

Alison DeLuca said...

Happy Valentine's Day to you!

Actually, mine weren't even on cassette tapes. We're talking 33 rpm records. Yes, I'm old. :)

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Sue said...

My mum owned a tiny tea shop next door to the library. When I was about three or four, I used to go to work with her and several times in the day, walked the few metres to the library to change my book. It was safe; apparently they all knew me there and mum could watch me walk between the doors. But what a wonderful world it opened up for me! Thanks for the memory jog.

Unknown said...

Once someone gave my Dad a box of old books that they'd stumbled on during a building renovation. They were poor condition and not very interesting but I was utterly enraptured and kept them for years until I moved to London and didn't have the room. I still have one and it still has that enchanting feel and smell that hints at other worlds!

Terri Giuliano Long said...

I love your post, Alison! You paint such a wonderful picture of the places books can take us.