Ever need to curl up with a good book, especially an old favorite, and just drift away on the story?
What is it about some books that we remember them forever? The main characters envelope us, carry us along, help us to leave our world and enter theirs. It’s a wonderful respite to escape from our lives and enjoy their fictional world. The images of a particular scene, a poignant moment, a joyful, exuberant ending come back to us over and over.
Sometimes, when I’m tired, I am drawn to those favorite books, even when I know I should be doing something else. It’s the escape they offer. And because I have read them before, I know I can count on them to take me somewhere far away. The pleasure, the pain, the battle, the victory are guaranteed.
So often, the books we enjoy give us the power to be stronger, smarter, braver. They become our close friends that encourage us, touch us, inspire us. They don’t rant or rave, going on for pages about what we should do or shouldn’t do. The heroes or heroines simply tell their own stories. Our characters share their strengths and weaknesses. From these friends we learn how they survived, how they overcame their problems, how they became better. And we learn in turn.
The gift I used to love best of all at Christmas was books. I’ll never forget opening books like Black Beauty or Marguerite Henry’s Caldecott winners about the Godolphin Arabian or Misty of Chincoteague (I had a small black horse at the time). Of course, I was raised on Little Women and The Little Colonel Series and all the classics that my grandmother read to me. My brother still has my Little Colonel books and whenever I go visit I still reread them and enjoy a good cry.
When I was old enough to get to the library, there was Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and the Cherry Ames series. But history began to attract me and I sank into biographies of Napoleon, of King Tutankhamen, of Caesar. A favorite that I still own and reread periodically is Samuel Edwards’ The White Plume about Prince Rupert, a supporter of Charles I.
The list, of course is endless. Since I rode horses, my worst addiction was to Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. I had a friend who supplied my cravings with stacks of these particular books. When my mother found me buried under piles of them, she swore my brains were going to turn to gray mush and leak out of my head. She was probably right.
Now, when I walk into a Barnes and Noble (our Huntsville Hastings died a sad and much-mourned death) I am overwhelmed by the number of books on the shelves. Talk about the good, the bad and the really, really horrible. It is difficult to sort out which is which. As readers, it’s worthwhile to read reviews, but when I am standing at the shelves, flipping through the pages, it’s hard to tell.
Rather than paying the high prices, my wise friend Nancy checks books out of the library. (Thank goodness for careful librarians who DO read reviews). Then she gives the author 50 pages to convince her to read on. If it doesn’t grab her, she says life is too short and there are too many other books out there to waste time on a bad one. She dumps it off at the library and finds another.
I have to say a word about self-publishing. Although there are some good books out there that are self-published, there are also some incredibly awful books. One book I read on Bernardo de Gálvez, my hero, was so poorly written that, as a teacher, I had to grab for my red pen. There was hardly a page that didn’t have typos, misstatements, and incorrect facts. The book dripped with red when I got done. Yes, I sent it back to the author. Whether he paid any attention, who knows. Who cares.
So, with the craziness of Christmas done with, it’s time to relax. I’m curling up with Prince Rupert or maybe Judith McNaught or maybe Nora Roberts, or maybe Jack Reacher. But I have to walk the dogs first and I can read books doing that, too.
Thank goodness for Audible.