The first book I can remember loving was Miffy in the Hospital, by Dick Bruna. I don’t remember right now if my mom checked it out from the library for me specifically in preparation for my tonsillectomy at age two and a half, if she’d already read it to me many times before then and just revisited it on the eve of my own trip to the hospital, or if it actually came later in my reading life and I’ve retroactively superimposed it onto my memories of getting my tonsils out, but the fact remains that Miffy was a major part of my childhood book experience. It was a book-love that I shared with all of my younger sisters, and I’m pretty sure the library’s copy spent more time on our bookshelf at home than it did on the library shelves.
I’m sure I (or my mother) shared Miffy with my older brother, too, but being a boy I don’t know if he connected to the little girl rabbit on quite as deep a level. He did, however, connect deeply to the second book I can remember loving: The Great Steamboat Mystery, by Richard Scarry.
This was another book that we could have easily made a case for ownership-through-adverse-possession, and it was a dark day indeed in our house when the librarian told us that their copy had been lost, and they couldn’t replace it because it was out of print. My siblings and I all cried, and I’m pretty sure my mom shed a secret tear, too, although she put on a brave face for us children. We eventually moved on with our lives, as people do after great losses, but every now and then one of us would say, “Do you remember The Great Steamboat Mystery? I miss that book.” It was a book we loved, and had therefore become a fundamental part of our identities.
(Incidentally, this was how my husband managed to finagle his way into the good graces of my family right off the bat, back when he was only my boyfriend. I had told him in passing about these two lost books of my childhood—the library’s Miffy having eventually suffered a similar fate as Steamboat, also marked by many shed tears—and he had stored the information away for later use. Later use, of course, being that he got on eBay as soon as he got home and tracked down a copy of each, and then had them delivered to my parents’ house for me to open on Christmas. The peasants all rejoiced greatly, and Husband was pronounced to be a great guy. My copies of Miffy in the Hospital and The Great Steamboat Mystery still occupy important spots on my bookshelf to this day.)
I guess my basic point is that I love books, and they affect the way I shape my relationships to this day. My closest friends love books like I love books, which is to say like I love sunshine and goodness and breathing (Scout Finch’s proclamation notwithstanding). I once had a boss who bragged that he had never finished reading a book in his life; you can imagine how well that work experience went.
I love books that are well-written, books that are horribly written (although for different reasons), books that are classics and books that are fluff, and pretty much anything in between.
I love the feeling you get when you fall in love with a book. I don’t mean a little fleeting crush or a passing attraction, but honest-to-goodness, life-changing love. While I’m reading a book like that, it gives me a rush of excitement every time I think of it. When can I slip away to meet it again? What’s going on behind that cover? Does it like me, too? (Okay, not so much that last one. Okay, I lied. I totally anthropomorphize books and pretend they love me back and we’re involved in an epic love affair. Only, you know, clean, because I’m married and love my husband and all.)
This response is so intense sometimes that I find myself, after finally reading the last sentence and closing the back cover of one of these love-of-my-life books, hesitant to pick up a new book and start reading. It won’t be the same—the characters will be different, the pages won’t feel right, and most of all, it feels like cheating on my newfound love. In order to get my feet back on the ground again, figuratively speaking, I have to spend time with a book that’s an old friend first, one where the relationship is already easy and established and comfortable as an old pair of shoes. Re-reading is the only thing better than reading, just like old friends are the only thing better than making new friends.
And that’s why I love books. And that’s the reason for this blog.