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Friday, March 09, 2012

Thinking About Weighty Books

The week has passed in a blur even though I remember, early on, looking at the calendar and thinking the week might turn out somewhat relaxing. Busy, but the overall balance felt pretty good. Keeping current with the farmers market, the hubby's office, and managing to spend some good quality time with the kids. We started reading Treasure Island this week. It was Middle Munchkin's turn to pick. We've had a collection of books on our shelf for most of her lifetime, the Great Books for Children series. It pre-dates even me. My mother's handwriting, inside the covers, say the books are a gift to her children, my three siblings. No mention of Tracy, as I was apparently not even thought of yet. I think we ended up with most of the collection when my dad was working on cleaning out his house.

Anyway, these books have been the kid picks several times over the years. It's funny, because I was a reader as a kid, and though I remember these books on the bookshelf, I don't remember having a specific interest in reading them. Reading them with the kids, however, bits and pieces of the stories come back to me and in some cases it's the illustrations in the books that confirm for me that I actually spent time at least looking at the books when I was young. Most of the stories I was exposed to in one way or another over time, but as much as I read, I don't have a memory of actually sitting down with these books and reading them cover to cover.

We had this built-in book shelf in our living room when I was growing up. It wasn't very wide, but it was tall, and it contained the entire set of World Book Encyclopedias, as well as the Great Books Series for Children, and perhaps my favorite, the Childcraft Series which contained books such as What People Do, Places to Know, Stories and Fables, and Poems and Ryhmes.

That bookshelf was my internet as I was growing up. It's the place I went when I was looking for something to do or to entertain myself. I loved selecting a letter of the alphabet, pulling that encyclopedia from the shelf, and just browsing for hours, reading here and there, anything that interested me.

Those big books and that bookshelf were also good for building castle walls or a cave to hide in. All it took was a few properly pinned sheets, perhaps the cushions off the couch, and columns of heavy books to form a barrier. Sometimes you had to be careful that the book you wished to read inside the fortress did not get used as building material. 

When my dad "cleaned house" after my mom died, those books became part of my collection for a while. I don't think all of them have survived our moves, but may of them remain. I know at least the encyclopedia set was donated to a library sale. I've still got selections of the others tucked away in boxes and in storage. As much as I'd love to have all of them out on shelves, there simply isn't room for hundreds of pounds of books, and let's face it, that encyclopedia set was dated even in my day. (I want to say that our set was copyright 1957, though it may have been later.)

My dream house has always contained bookshelves, built into the wall just like the one in the house I grew up in. We've done a lot with freestanding bookshelves in our house, but they always seem overweighted and flimsy compared to that one in the hole in the wall I knew growing up. I could use the shelves of that bookshelf as a ladder to get to the top when I was still short! I've never had a bookshelf quite that sturdy in my own home.

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