I am embarrassed to admit that I have a hard time getting through books these days. It is even more embarrassing when I see the confession written out before me. Sigh.
My book club laughs about the fact that I am in a book club, because I rarely make it very deep into the assigned book before it is time for us to gather and discuss. Thankfully, they like me, and we talk about a whole lot more stuff than the book each month, but still, I am embarrassed by my paltry performance. Every single time.
It mostly makes me sad because I was a voracious reader for most of my life. When I was young we would go to the library weekly and I would bring home stack after stack after stack of books and read every one before we went back the next Saturday.
Our neighborhood library was the Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library, tucked at the end of a dead-end street behind the post office. They have since built a new one, but back then it was this interesting mid-century style octagonal building with peaked roofs on each side and windows filling the triangles they created. The kids’ book section was on the left along the walls as you first walked in, and I can see and feel and smell every bit of the experience to this day.
In between the near weekly trips to our local library, we would visit the main DeKalb County library in downtown Decatur. That was a wholly different experience, a towering brick and concrete and columned structure that made you feel you were entering a terribly important place. I always felt more serious when I looked for books in the main library, in fact I don’t even remember reading any children’s books there, though I’m sure I did.
I often ended up in the nature section downstairs. I even remember beginning to read Joy Adamson’s “Born Free” sitting on the floor between the shelves, so excited I was to delve into the story. The tile floor, the radiator clicking and hissing, the enveloping quiet, all come to mind when I recall her Kenyan safari setting, blended together in a way that only a book lover can understand.
When I was a young newlywed settling in Rome, one of the first places I became familiar with was the Rome-Floyd County Library. It was within walking distance of my home, but I usually drove there because I was likely transporting a healthy stack of books to and fro. I read all kinds of stuff back then, but the majority of my time was spent in the cookbook section and that is most of what I carried home. This was long before Pinterest and blogs and cooking websites, and I couldn’t justify splurging on too many magazines on our starving artist income, but boy, did I love to cook and plan menus and consider concoctions.
I have gathered many cookbooks of my own over the years, and they now spend most of their time gathering dust on the shelves of my kitchen. I cook a lot less now and if I look for a recipe I’m far more likely to turn on my computer or smartphone than to turn the pages of a book, but that sure does make me sad. Those borrowed books were like old friends and so many delicious and fun times were inspired by their wisdom!
And, of course, when my daughter was young, we were frequent fliers in the children’s section of the library. We had so much fun reading together and I properly raised her to lug stacks of books home each week and to enjoy all of the fun activities the librarians organized. There is nothing better than watching your child experience the joy of a good story, and she took that to heart as she grew, writing numerous lengthy stories and planning out storyboards for her next great novel. Even in college she is continuing to work on what I feel is a story with great promise. We shall see where that leads.
Over the years I have managed to completely abandon the joy of trips to the library. Am I the only one?
I recently found myself in need of a trip to the library. When I arrived, the first thing I did was to venture back to the cookbook section to see if any of my old favorites were still there. It was like visiting your old school and finding that it is filled with all new students, just as young and filled with promise as you remember feeling, but looking completely different from what you recall. I scanned the shelves and even brought a couple of them home to peruse and I did, again, find inspiration in those pages.
I thought to myself, “I should start coming to the library again, maybe it can help inspire me to secure the time to read that I am finding so elusive.” I decided to poll my friends on social media and see if they, too, find themselves out of the library habit. I’m now embarrassed to say that many of them enthusiastically shared with me how often they still go! I was sure that I would get many people my age saying that, while they used to go or grew up going or took their children, they no longer utilize this wonderful resource in the midst of our modern electronic and busy lives.
I feel like I have been missing out on a rich and wonderful habit and it makes it even worse knowing that many of my friends never stopped. I hope that I will run into you one day soon as I get back to the treasure trove that is our library system. But, if I’m reading, please don’t disturb me. I’m easily distracted in my old age, and I’d really like to actually finish a book.