Memories are a funny thing- they catch up to us sometimes when we least expect them.
I’m finding a lot of those memories right now because I’m packing to move in about five weeks. The first things I pack (and the first things I unpack) are my books. They take five times as long as everything else combined. Packing a few boxes at a time makes the whole process a little less overwhelming. You have to understand, I have a TON of books. I’ve packed four and a half of the seven and a half book cases, all of them at least double stacked and most of them triple stacked.
I have a lot of books.
I also have an e-reader, and I love it. As a bookseller who also sells e-readers, one of the comments I get with almost every demonstration is “But I just love having the actual book”, and to these people I say, quite honestly, so do I. I love the physical book. I love the weight, the feel of it in your hands, the texture of the pages, even the musty smell of the paper and boxes and the smudge of ink that comes off on your fingers on the cheapo mass markets. I love having a library in my home. When I was a kid, if you asked me which Disney princess I wanted to be, my answer was Belle, because she got to have access to THAT LIBRARY. I take care of my books, and as much as I hate packing, moving, and unpacking, I will go to all the pain and sweat and effort of lugging those books around from apartment to apartment because I love them. As much as I use my e-reader (and even that, mostly for pdfs), as wonderful as it is for traveling and reading manuscripts, there is nothing in my mind that will ever replace a physical library.
(Which is one of the reasons I love love LOVE the Doctor Who episodes in the library)
But as I was packing the half bookcase (which used to be a full bookcase until it met with an unfortunate accident with a staircase during one of the moves), which is mostly Middle Grade, I realized another reason why I love physical books so much.
Well, sort of.
I have an entire box of Nancy Drew books and the goal to one day have the complete classic collection, and it’s not even because of my deep and abiding love for the feisty girl detective. I like Nancy, don’t get me wrong, but she’s definitely dated. A girl who doesn’t go to college, has an unlimited supply of powder-blue convertibles, changes clothing for dinner, and can safely stay the night with perfect strangers is not exactly something in my range of experience. I enjoyed her stories, my first taste of mystery and discovering the story along with the characters, and it taught me the word ‘titian’ as a color rather than referring to an artist, and well, that comes in really handy when you need to hit the triple word score in Scrabble.
But here’s the real reason why Nancy, Bess, George, and Ned make me love those rows of yellow spines on the bottom shelf. Some of those spines don’t match. They’re a much darker yellow, almost a grey-yellow, because they’re from 1948, 1950, 1952. They belonged to my mother. It isn’t just that they’re the same titles my mom read when she was a kid- they’re the same BOOKS. She didn’t keep all of them, but I’d say just shy of a dozen survived through the years. The edges of the pages are black and the layers of cardboard are peeling away from each other at some points.
The fact that they belonged to my mom would make them special anyway, but these have a bit of an extra miracle to them. When I was twelve, we had a house fire. Except for a box of books over at my grandmother’s (which included my Nancy Drews and my falling apart Berenstain Bears chapter books), all of my things were ruined. All of my books. Except my Nancy Drews, the books my mom had given me from her childhood.
Someday, I hope I have a daughter, and I hope I still have those books to pass on to her. The ones from my mother, yes, but also all the other ones, the ones I bought as a kid with my allowance or baby-sitting money, the ones I bought from the bargain section at the bookstore I used to live next to, hopefully one day the complete collection. And when I give them to her, I can sit down with her and show her the ones that I had when I was her age, and I can show her the ones her grandmother had at that age.
It’s not technically impossible to pass along an e-book, though I doubt any e-reader would have that kind of life span, but even supposing that it did it lacks the same emotional impact. It’s not as personal, and it’s not as poignant.
spawn children are going to be able to have access to all the books I’ve accumulated over the years, and those which I’ll continue to acquire. It’s a legacy I’ll be able to give them, far more than simply linking their e-readers to my account to share the files.
And that legacy? Starts with Nancy Drew and a box of books that has survived countless moves, a house fire, and more library purges than I can remember.
Until next time~
(And don’t forget, there’s a giveaway for Andrea Cremer’s Rift going on for a few more days- stop by and check it out!)