The Wonderful World of the Library

The Wonderful World of the Library

Melissa Wiley is having a lovely discussion about books in her comments today. Specifically about favorite books. The ones you reread until they were about to fall apart.

I’ve more usually been a book devourer rather than a savorer. I gobble them up and retain very little. So my list is rather short.

There is, however, one book that immediately pops to mind and that is A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I still have my childhood copy of it and it is very well loved. Sara was another me. I loved her madly. More, I think I was her. Although I never lost my family and all my posessions, still I was often lonely and shunned by my classmates so I identified with Sara’s plight.

Second to that is The Secret Garden.  A beautiful and much read book; though Mary never captured my heart like Sara did.

I loved Narnia and I am so glad that my parents bought me the series in hardcover because my childhood copies are still in excellent condition (though the dust jackets are long, long gone.) and I can still reread them in the books that I’ve always read. I just can’t imagine reading another copy. Oh and because they are old enough that The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is listed as the first book and not The Magician’s Nephew.

Then there was Madeleine L’Engle. I only had the time trilogy, A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Meg was another other me. I loved her then and I still love her.

Anne of Green Gables and I didn’t meet until I was in high school but we became bosom buddies immediately. As did Emily of New Moon and I. They are now books I reread and love to tatters.

And then there was that beautiful edition of Louisa May Alcott. A big red cloth-bound book with golden embossed letters that contained a treasure trove:  Little Women, Good Wives, and Little Men all together. I remember the first time I read this one. I discovered it one day sitting on my shelf and I remember running to my mom asking where it came from because I was sure I’d never seen it before. She said she didn’t know or she was under the impression I’d always had it. In any case I formed the secret belief that the fairies had delivered it. That volume was magical to me. Oh the joys and tears and loves that were contained within those covers. Now it is faded to a very dusty red and the binding is broken; but it still hold pride of place on my shelves.

The other books I still own and treasure are my complete Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen and Sherlock Holmes. Big fat hardcover books that I perhaps loved as much for their weight and completeness as for the hours I spent wandering through their worlds.

Oh but I am getting off track. What I wanted to write about here was a memory that was jarred when Melissa mentioned Oz in the comments:

I keep thinking about the Oz books. It has been many years since I revisited them, but as a child I probably reread that series more than any other. My dad helped me collect them all from used bookstores and thrift shops. We still have most of those books, and I think all of my reading daughters have gone through an intense Oz phase at one time or another.

They didn�t lure me back after college and into motherhood, the way other books have. But they were hugely important to the elementary school me and probably warrant a place of honor on my Maudly list.

Like I said, this one sent me back to a specific memory, like opening a box and smelling a smell. Suddenly I was at the library, the big public library building in downtown Austin, not the local branch where we usually went. I know I went there a few times with my dad. (Perhaps when he was researching something or other before opening the bookstore?)

In any case, I remember going with him and what a treat it was. I remember the children’s section with a little reading area. There was this castle covered in carpet where one could climb up into a tower and curl up with a book.

That was where I read all the OZ books. I remember finding the place on the shelf and returning to it again and again as I made my way through the entire series. Oh and I believe that’s where I encountered Half Magic and The Egypt Game.

These aren’t books I read again and again and again because they were rare jewels only available from that library. But somehow they seared themselves on my memory all the more for that rarity.

One thing I love about being a mom is that I look forward to sharing these and other new favorites with my girls, losing myself once again in their worlds.

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  • Rebecca,

    Thank you for stopping by and for extending the invitation.

    I’m actually a native Texan. I grew up in Austin and didn’t move to New England until I was in my mid 20s. New Englanders are nice. I married one after all. smile But sometimes it’s still a bit of culture shock to me.

    We’ve been talking about moving to Texas since we were married; but so far the jobs for my husband have been here. Still, maybe one of these days I’ll be able to take you up on that gracious offer.

  • I just wanted to say I think it is awesome you have such a wonderful relationship with your sister.

    And if you are ever nearby, you are always welcome at our place anytime.

  • Thanks Mel – I really needed to read this today. I identify so much with everything that you’ve written here except that i don’t have a sister – but i have always wanted one.

    I’m not as much of an introvert, but i’m terribly insecure. I am still a work in progress and am constantly learning. I worry that expressing unrefined ideas to some of the women i meet can will alienate by inadvertently criticizing something important to them. I have a couple of tentative friendships that I’ve been trying to develop cautiously, but sometimes i wish that perfect friend would just show up on my doorstep.

    I’m trying to value the different types of friendships that are developing and take what i need from each. Out trials with Anna really showed up how many people have our back, and some acquaintances turned out to be good friends.

    I’m also trying to remember that even when i’m nervous about interacting, I have to be a friend to make a friend. I thank God that I forced myself to go to a mommy and me group, introduced myself to some neighbors, and continue to look for openings to talk about things with acquaintances that may show shared interests. More people than we know are in the same boat.

    We may be just down the street from that friend but they are waiting for us to show up on their doorstep too.


  • Hi Melanie,
    I really loved this post, but for the opposite reason.  I am an extravert and love meeting new people, but yet can tell an introvert from a mile away and honestly sometimes stay away because I fear that I will overwhelm them.  I don’t know if that makes sense, but I like hearing things from your perspective, because it gives me courage to just “do it” in those situations as they arise.  Go ask that woman that I may think hates me or thinks I am too outgoing and just wants to be left alone, and just ask them to come over for dinner, and if they say yes, great, if they say no, well, no harm.  And if you lived closer, I would LOVE to hang out with you.  There is so much good stuff here on your blog, I can’t imagine how great it would be to talk in person.  God Bless and have a great day! – Marie

  • Thank you for linking to me on my white minivan posts.  I’m a little surprised at how this story seems to have resonated with people.

    I’ve never been to New England, but the people seem to be very nice once you get past their natural reserve, but I don’t know for sure.  I’m from Texas/Oklahoma and we’re just very friendly people.  Move down here and then you may come over for tea, mac and cheese or cinnamon rolls any time you want.

  • Oh how I would love you to move back to Texas. How many cups of tea we would share! But thank God for the internet. Without it, we would have never met…which is ironic considering that we were at the same school at the same time. Either way, I am thankful for your friendship. (But don’t let that relieve the pressure to move here. smile

  • Thanks, Katherine. And of course if you’re ever up our way, you’d be remiss if you didn’t come by.

    “We may be just down the street from that friend but they are waiting for us to show up on their doorstep too.”

    Betsy, To me that’s the scariest part, the idea that it might be up to me to make the first move. I don’t know if I have it in me.


    Honestly, how I’d react depends on the day or the hour. Sometimes I might indeed be overwhelmed and not react to an overture in the best way possible. Nonetheless, I would always appreciate that someone had made the effort.

    In fact, you bring to mind a really nice mom I met at the playground who gave me her number. I never called her. In fact I never had any intention of calling her because of many circumstances but mainly because for me picking up the phone to call a stranger is almost impossible. And later I lost her number. Still, I regret a lost opportunity. Maybe we could have been friends had I been able to move past my phone phobia.

    Also, every time I’ve met a blog friend in person, it has been a delightful experience. If the opportunity ever arises, I’d love to chat in person.

    Mary, I feel the same way. It’s funny you aren’t the only UDer I’ve connected with via the internet. Thank God for second chances! Some day we will enjoy that cup of tea, I am sure of it.

  • Your post really spoke to me. I am an introvert, shy and not very confident. There are so many women I think would be such great friends. But it never seems to work out—they have their friends and busy lives, as I do mine.

    But, also like you, I’ve found that my sisters are my best friends. And although I can’t have that cup of tea or more one-on-one time, I think it’s because of the season of our lives. We’re tending to our babies right now. And sometimes I think that God is sending that alone time to be with my husband and children. What plans He has for it, what He’s trying to say to me, I’m not sure yet, but I know it’s in His plan.

  • i’m still the “new” girl after 5 years, and finally, this spring i feel like i’m making inroads.  i thought stay at home motherhood would involve lots of playdates and coffee with girlfriends, but it’s been a great deal lonelier and more isolating than i could have imagined—and i’m not even very introverted.

    what a blessing to have your sister so near.  mine are across the state, but i just returned from a lovely family weekend:)

    blessings to you—friendships take TIME, but they do grow, ever so slowly.