Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Great Escape

For someone who doesn't consider herself to be particularly religious, I have a lot of religion-focused books on my reading pile, including:

Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, Bart Ehrman

No God But God, Reza Aslan

Heroic Leadership, Chris Lowney

To be truthful, I had to return No God But God to library as I wasn't able to get to it in two cycles and someone else was waiting for it. I'm so ashamed. Not that I was hoarding it, but that I had to take it back, unread. I know libraries are wonderful places. Really, they are. But I want to keep my books. I want to be the first person to read them (unless they're really old, of course). I like to buy whatever interests me and get to it when I have time. And I like to know that, once a book has been read, it is safely in my library. Maybe I'll want to re-read it, or keep it for reference (yes, yes, I know I can get the info online), but mostly, I just like to hoard books.

It was a wrench, but I had to get rid of a lot of my books after we moved to California. The available space has been gradually squeezed in favor of cans of play dough, Creatrix sets, Candyland, mountains of crayons, markers, sheets of construction paper, cardboard . . . And the lower shelves of the bookcases were no longer safe and offered more temptation to climb than Hannah was able to resist. So I sorted and resorted. I put books into boxes and took them out again. Some of these books I'd had since I was a kid. Some since college--most of those I boxed up. As a near-penniless English Lit major, I had to buy most of my books used or in paperback, and then resell at the end of the term to pay for the next batch.

You know you have a problem when you're offended that the used book store won't take everything. It's not about the money--they're not paying you that much. But these were more than just paper and ink; they were companions. They'd made me think and discover, laugh and cry. They never minded when I was too busy to pay attention to them, leaving them to collect dust on the night table. And they understood when I was depressed and, if I read at all, could only read certain of them over and over and over again.

There are books I've lost or loaned out to never see again: a former co-worker borrowed Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone just before he and the agency parted company; I misplaced a very old copy of Paradise Lost; The Birth of Venus is still with a friend (not that I'm rushing you, Sarah!). And those I was unable to finish, though I'm happy to say there are few in that category: The Quark and the Jaguar comes to mind. And the Nanny Diaries, because it was, what's the word: dreadful? God-awful? Anyway, I can't remember everything I've read over the years, but for good or ill, most have left their mark.

Hannah seems to share my love of books, sitting quietly for, oh, minutes at a time, until she remembers to ask if she can watch a movie instead. Charlotte also adores books--shaken, gummed and ingested. But I have faith that in a few years, they'll find that books provide a window on the human condition, and can help them escape for awhile and explore and understand people and parts of the world they may never see. For now, I just have to keep explaining to Hannah why she may not draw funny pictures, any pictures, in Mommy's books.

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