My family has always loved books. There were books in my grandmother’s living room, behind the glass double doors of a ancient bookcase. There were books in her guest room. Bookcases lined my parents’ hallway. Once, a friend came to visit me when I was in my 40s. She said someone asked at the airport if she was taking a book with her, since I was not going to be able to take time off from work while she was here. Her response: “There will be books there.” And, of course, she was right. And she hadn’t been to my house in 20 years.
My mother was first an English teacher and then a librarian. My father, who worked as a highway engineer, dropped out of school in the eighth grade because he didn’t like his teacher. One of his favorite authors was Rudyard Kipling. Another was the poet Robert W. Service. Thirty years ago, he gave me a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Not bad, for an eighth grade dropout.
So books have always been part of my life. I consider the extremely good ones my friends. I consider the not-so-good-to-mediocre someone’s friends. Some writer has labored over the words whether they have come together really well or not. I have great respect for that. And it is difficult for me to part with almost any book.
As my first post ever on my own blog, I choose to write about books.
My grandmother, my mother’s mother, kept a “book diary.” I inherited a number of them. Some are in journals, some are on simple pieces of paper. She listed, year by year, in order, the books she read. 1970: 1. How Firm A Foundation by Patrick Dennis, 2. Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home by Harry Kemelman. She also introduced me to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, which I suspect was the groundwork for my impassioned years as a crime reporter. Most years, she read upward of 100 books, mostly great literature, including the Bible. She had a special love for good mystery novels. In 1970, she read 186 books. She often “discovered” an author, as I often do. In 1970, one of those was Elswyth Thane, who wrote, oh surprise, romance novels. Gran read, back-to-back, eight of those books.
But, she was such a Southern belle and such a grand lady, that I so remember she was horrified and offended by the story in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which by today’s standards seems totally innocuous.
I have not kept a journal, but I will honestly say I often read or re-read great literature, New York Times best sellers, the works of Pulitzer Prize winners and Nobel Prize winners. And sometimes, for mindless pleasure, I will read a gothic romance novel (especially those that involve time travel to medieval Scotland) and even newer Lowcountry romances. They’re just a nice break from the heavy lifting.