June 15, 2024

Books to the Ceiling, Books to the Sky

Rehoboth Ramblings

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It’s another rainy day. I should use my time productively by tidying up around here, maybe setting aside the books to donate to the Blanding Library’s used book sale, coming up Oct. 6-8. But maybe I could start by writing about how hard it is for some of us to part with books from an emotional point of view. I am not talking about rare books or being a book collector as such.

The “books to the ceiling” line is from a favorite poem by the late, great children’s author Arnold Lobel, who wrote the beloved Frog & Toad series. It’s from his book “Whiskers & Rhymes” and it goes: “Books to the ceiling, books to the sky. My piles of books are a mile high. How I love them! How I need them!  I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.”

Borrowing books from the library is great because you have such a wide choice of things to read for free (and in many formats, I would add). It’s also great   that you don’t have to keep the book when you are finished! It goes back to the library shelf, rather than sitting on your book shelves. A win-win situation.  

It’s a win-win situation when you donate your gently used books to a library book sale too. You can clear out some books that others might want to buy and in doing so, help raise money for your library. You can enjoy looking for new book bargains when you come to the sale. There are plenty of all kinds of books to browse through and choose from, though maybe not piled up to the ceiling!

Sometimes I feel guilty when people conflate those who read a lot of books (I believe we are referred to as “avid readers”) with those who buy a lot of books. I buy only a few books a year at most but I read at least one a week or more. I like to think that I’m helping the library’s circulation statistics anyway, even if not directly contributing to the author’s finances.

Why is it so hard for book-lovers to part with their books? During the first few months of the pandemic when we were all cooped up at home, I thought it would be a good time to re-visit some books sitting on the shelf. And I did, to a certain extent, rediscover some old favorites. But now I see a book just collecting dust and I think that if I couldn’t summon enough interest to read this three years ago why am I still hanging on to it?

Another major reason to support libraries is that they offer a sense of community. A recent heart-warming example of this was reported in The New York Times (August 25), describing a reading of Robert McCloskey’s classic children’s book “Blueberries for Sal” at the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Maine, which attracted over 200 people.

What made this book event special was that the reader was Sal herself, Sarah McCloskey, now age 78, and the inspiration for her father’s book all those years ago. Yes, she still lives in Maine. Robert McCloskey’s most famous children’s book is “Make Way for Ducklings” which is so beloved that the duckling statues (by sculptor Nancy Schon) continue to be a popular attraction at the Boston Public Garden.

Readers get especially attached to classic children’s books. I am particularly fond of certain children’s books, those by Arnold Lobel, as mentioned above, and Ludwig Bemelman’s Madeline books (“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines…”) and my all-time favorite, “The Wind in the Willows”. And let’s not forget Beatrix Potter and her charming stories.

Writing in LitHub, www.lithub.com, Lewis Buzbee, a San Francisco writer, discusses this feeling of attachment in “On the difficulty of getting rid of books”. He says: “Books are written, published, sold, then, quite happily, re-sold, perhaps more than once; a single book might be read by countless eyes. This is one of the unique qualities of the book: no matter how many times it’s been sold, or read, a book is still a working machine… I never want to get rid of any books. I don’t get rid of them, per se; rather, I set them afloat, in search of new homes.” Now that’s a positive way to look at it!

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