This morning I was set to write a post about the 2nd largest continent on our threatened planet but was stopped in my tracks by a flood of memories on a totally different topic.
Libraries and the role they’ve played in my life and hopefully in yours.
My parents never took me to the “big library.” They didn’t have to because the bookmobile came to our village. I never missed a day, first in line. When I was in 9th grade, I was lucky enough to be the “Saturday girl” at my branch of the St. Louis County Library answering the phones. I made 30 cents/hour and felt rich as could be. I was terrible on the switchboard (cut off the boss), became a junior librarian, and loved shelving books and finding misplaced ones.
These memories were prompted by The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams. I’m only a few pages into it but the heart of the story is about finding home in the library and the books that will stay with you forever. Books and libraries are home for me and I can’t wait to read more about Mukesh and Aleisha and their reading list.
This morning I remembered a summer ritual when I ended my Saturdays working at the library. My mother would meet me at the elaborate gate to our neighborhood with a snack. We would walk home together talking about our day like two girlfriends. I can still see her bright smile when I stepped off the bus and those snacks—always homemade. I wish she were here again so that I could properly thank her for giving up her afternoon for me.
The splendid gates to Pasadena Park
After ninth grade I worked at the library every summer on the very bookmobile that had come to my village. I would see those kids lined up with the same excitment on their faces and my teenage heart would melt. Thanks to Hal, our driver, I had access to all the adults-only books we had onboard—Peyton Place and Frank Yerby’s The Foxes of Harrow. I remember the love scenes and the mention of “her thighs.” WOWZA! It turns out he was the first Black novelist to publish a best-seller and the first to have his novel made into a movie.
Much later, I made going to the library and reading books part of my daughters’ lives and remains a key part of their childhood memories.
I can’t imagine not reading before bedtime if only a page or two to close up the day. And again in the morning, often with our cat Violet on my lap in bed.
The Reading List has 8 books – each one starts a section. I wonder what books you might choose if you were limited to say 10. Mine have a place in my heart or what I think of as keepers and re-readable. Here are the books (for now) on my list:
♥ Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink – from my childhood and my idea of a brave girl.
♥ Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey – I read it to my daughters and almost knew it by heart. One daughter made a drawing of the story in third grade. I made an embroidery of it, had it framed, and see it every day.
♥ Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak – from my short, executive life. I had the page where he’s king of the beasts framed in my office—look out patriarch or a girl can dream.
♥ The Handyman by Carolyn See – because I love her feisty spirit and her writing.
♥ Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans – the characters break my heart every time.
And just because (for one reason or another): The End of the Myth by Greg Grandin, Live Through This by Debra Gwartney, This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff, The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, and The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford.
So – what’s on your list? Wouldn’t it be fun to start a book club, put our lists together, and share the joy of a good book with fellow bookworms.
And don’t forget to keep one of these in your neighborhood filled with a book you enjoyed and are willing to pass along – not the same as the library but free.
Photo by Eric Mclean
Here’s a sad update to this post.
The Mukilteo School Board voted unanimously to remove To Kill a Mockingbird from the required reading list. The board’s move does not ban the book from being taught, and it remains on the district-approved novel list.
Last year, three high school English teachers argued the novel celebrates white saviorhood, marginalizes characters of color and features the ‘n-word’ almost 50 times. The Instructional Materials Committee, comprised of about 20 members including teachers and parents, evaluated the request.
I remember that bookmobile. It came to my neighborhood in Hanley Hills and I would get as many books as I could carry. What great memories. Joan Held McGuire invited me to join her book club with her neighbors at Table Rock Lake after we reconnected at our 50th reunion. We’ve read many books over the years I rated a “10”. I’ve always loved the smell and serenity of a library tho and am envious of the jobs you had with one. Hope you and your girls are healthy and safe.
It’s a wonderful idea to share lists, and to see how different they might be. I’d have to think a lot to get down to just ten books. But the main point you make is how important books are in our lives. Auden once wrote that poetry makes nothing happen–how wrong he was.