The unvoiced thoughts and ideas of a septegenarian.



Book – B-O-O-K – rhymes with look, cook, took – “a set of pages bound  together along one side and encased between protective covers.”  Humbug.  Is that the best Webster can do? Technically I suppose that definition is accurate but a book is more than technology.  There are – to name only  a few  – coloring books, diaries, travel guides, books of fiction or poetry, inspirational, self-help books. Christian Morley said it better than I am able.

 “Lord! When you sell a man a book you don’t sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life – love and friendship and humor and ships at sea by night – there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book.”

I became an avid  reader when I was very young.  I can’t imagine how that happened as I don’t recall ever seeing either of my parents with a book in their hands. I can remember only two books in our home: a three volume set of  Kristin Lavransdatter and the American Kennel Club’s book of dog breeds. While my sister joined the other neighborhood children outdoors after school, I sat by a window and read all of the Bobsey Twin books, Heidi and others indiscriminately checked out of the library.

Today I read some poetry, historical fiction that gives me insight into other cultures, occasionally a good detective story and any cookbook I can lay my  hands on from which I copy recipes of interest and  return to the shelf for the next chef to enjoy. I have no interest in self-help or inspirational books and, with a few exceptions, I avoid biographies. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve not read more of the world’s great literature – the great Russian writers, Plato and Socrates and a ton more.

What is a book beyond Webster’s technical definition?  As I see it . . . .

To open a book is to take a cross country train trip with reboarding privileges along the way. Some fictional characters become friends, some enemies, but you’ll discover the who of them. You’ll have seen a new vista or two; cheered for one  you’ve come to know well, shared tears with another, been angry at villains and laughed with the wit.  A biography is peeking into someone’s diary: opening his closets, learning his secrets. They are the voices of the distant and the dead. Others fill voids in your storehouse of knowledge. They satisfy a desire to learn – learn the history of China, the mating habits of Manatees, the sights to see in Thailand: what happened at the Finland Station., what is the philosophy of Taoism?

Books are far better than maps; they take you wherever you’d like to go. Warm beaches or deserts, a jungle safari, the top of a mountain, the depths of the sea. They invite you to rest in the shade of a pine forest, experience the carnival in Rio, watch a bull fight in Madrid.. They allow you to vicariously live dreams of taking a Mediterranean cruise, exploring the treasures of the Louvre.

A book  is a garden in your pocket; it waits for you to gather its roses and pluck its fruit. Crystal chandeliers  mean nothing – decorate your home with bookshelves for a house without books is like a room without windows.

 “I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who thought decorating consists of building enough bookshelves.” (Anna Quindlen)

Unopened books slumber, awaiting the moment their words fly forth from the pages to thrill or inform the reader. They are to the mind what exercise is to the body: the most patient of teachers: minds alive on a shelf.  They are antidotes for boredom and loneliness.

It makes no difference what books do for you. They are your friends; hands to hold, arms to enclose you. They do not lie, will never betray you. To be read and respected is all they ask. You may read only a few or thousands but you’ll save and remember those that touched you. Others may be consigned to the pass-along pile for it’s a crime to consign one to the fire

Credit the ancient Greeks with knowing what a book is. The inscription over the door to the Library at Thebes reads: “Medicine for the soul.” I envy librarians – lucky people who work all day surrounded by the thoughts of mankind, offering to share them with me at no cost at all. The best bargain I can imagine

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Julie Rose


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