The books we think we ought to read are poky, dull, and dry;
The books that we would like to read we are ashamed to buy;
The books that people talk about we never can recall;
And the books that people give us, oh, they're the worst of all. - Carolyn Wells
With hopes to encourage everyone -- children and adults alike -- to discover or rediscover reading, as well as gain esteem for authors, UNESCOs General Conference created World Book Day to pay a wide-reaching global salute to books. This year the auspicious day fell on March 6.
Years ago, as a teenager, my partner, Richard, asked his best friend Steven if he wanted a book for his birthday, to which, without skipping a beat, Steven replied, "No thanks, I already have one." This has remained a continuing joke that still makes us laugh whenever we repeat it. And in my case, Richard sometimes applies it literally. But I read -- really, I do! However, I'm not much of a book reader, I'm more of a magazine, newspaper and Internet reader. (We know who we are.)
And while I may not crack a spine all that often, I do love books, not just for the writing found within, but equally for the physicality of the object when held in my hands. Richard and I have such an appreciation for books that we have two rooms in our house completely devoted to shelves stacked tall and wide with hardcover, linen-bound novels, volumes containing the history of design, reference books about furniture, pottery and lots of our other favorite antiques and collectibles, piles of stuff on gardening, vintage and antique children's books, a few trashy but beloved dog-eared paperback fluff-stuff, and some beautiful treasured books about 20th Century artists (like Andy Warhol, Richard Serra, Claus Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein and Joseph Cornell) that Richard designed in one of his former careers from a million years ago.
And, in those very rare instances that I've actually read a book-- cover-to-cover that is -- I remember it forever. Some of my most loved include "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Love in the Time of Cholera," "Grapes of Wrath," and my all-time favorite, "In Cold Blood." It's not just the story telling but also the voice of the teller that I fall in love with. So when "it" happens, when I am so believably transported to a place and time and can hear the storyteller's voice as if he or she is speaking just to me, and I become engrossed while I'm reading, then I'm hooked.
I'm convinced there are two kinds of people in the world...those that keep and hoard books for a lifetime (my partner) and those that set them free after the final page has been turned (me). Between us, we find, buy or receive books from a million different sources. Some of our books are brand new, ordered on-line and come freshly delivered by a hunky guy in a brown uniform. Our dear friend Tommy, an avid reader, brings over piles of books about once a month when he's done scouring their pages. And every year, for Richard's birthday, our cousins Leslie and Michael find him the perfect big coffee table book -- this year's treasure is a comprehensive tome on his favorite artist, Joseph Cornell.
But for the most part, we've found some of our most prized treasures for just pennies at neighborhood stoop sales, country garage tag sales, thrift shops, or, almost always at the church book sale every Sunday just around the corner from where we live.
These used editions are usually time worn and dog eared, torn and mended with tape. We don't much care about the outside (talk about not judging a book by its cover) but we do care if they are musty or not.
So in the event that we've found a volume we've been meaning to read or something either of us just has to have, the one thing neither of our super allergic noses can handle is a book so rank that we can't turn it's pages without sneezing. But rather than pass that treasure by, after bringing it home, we simply place mildewed, musty or attic-stinky books into a dark plastic bag with an open box of baking soda. With no particular timeline in mind, we allow the baking soda to perform its magic by absorbing the offending odors for at least a few weeks, or until the annoying smell has completely disappeared.
So give books, circulate them, (freshen them first if you find them stinky!) and allow others -- especially children -- to enjoy and share their riches. Since the publication of my first book, "Clean: The Humble Art of Zen-Cleansing," our newest chuckle is "Michael doesn't read books...he just writes them!"
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