Category Archives: Opinion

Books as Gifts

It doesn’t have to be Christmas for a book to be the perfect gift.

How many of you had a special book that you read when you were a child? Do you remember a book, or story, that stuck with you throughout your life that brings a smile to your face whenever you think about it? How wonderful would it be to give that kind of gift to someone you care about?

The beauty of books is that they don’t have to be expensive to make an impression. An inexpensive used book can still transport a child, or adult, to another world. A science fiction book can be the foundation for life-long learning. A biography can be the impetus that encourages a child to aspire to be like their hero.

I recall happily reading Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time when I was in the fourth grade. I learned the word “tesseract” and I had a vague understanding about the fourth dimension and movement within time and space. It didn’t make me an expert but the information has stayed with me all my life. We recently went to see the movie, Interstellar, Tesseractand even though most of the space travel talk was well over my head, I could maintain some semblance of understanding due to having read A Wrinkle in Time as a child. That is knowledge that created a bridge in my life that spans over four decades!

Even though movies and music can also impact our lives as we grow, what other medium can be given so freely and can hold its value, whether sentimental or monetary, better than a book?

Take the time to find out what your family member or friend wants to read. Find an old book you loved reading and share it with someone you love. Look for a first edition of your son or daughter’s favorite book or maybe find a copy signed by the author. That book will become a valued treasure in the years to come.

Use discount code “Relaunch 2014” at The Literary Heart for 10% off between now and December 31st.

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Books and Memories and Dads

When I say the word books, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

Is it a particular book you love? Is it a memory of reading something at a particular place or time? Is it a memory related to reading? Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. Whatever it is, it’s probably something that has been with you for quite a long time and that someone, somewhere fed your love for books. I believe that people who love books, have probably done so from a very early age. It’s not just about the reading part, although that is probably the most important part of loving books. No…I think it also has to do with the visceral reaction we have to books, whether it’s to one book in particular, or to books in general.

There is something deeply rooted in many of us that literally pulls us towards anything with the written word. Sometimes, we don’t even have to like the object of our affection. Just the fact that it’s a book is enough to make us want it. I see catalogues from various book sellers and even though I have absolutely no interest in an early 19th century book about guns, I still want to see that book! I want to hold it. I want to thumb through it and maybe read the first page or so. I want to know how much it costs and I want to vacillate over whether or not I can afford it and whether or not I want to add it to my collection, not because I love 19th century books about guns, but because it’s a book! It’s an old book! And it’s old! And it’s a book! See what I mean?

So yes. When I think of books, I definitely think of books but one of the first things that comes to mind for me is my daddy. Which is kind of funny because my mom was the voracious reader in our family even though I surpassed her in my voracity to read when I was still very young. My dad was a very, very casual reader. He was not the one who stayed up until 2am reading, that was my mom…or me…under the covers with a flashlight, of course.

No…my dad wasn’t the big reader of the family. What he was, was a man of infinite patience. The man who, every two weeks, almost without fail, drove me to the library in downtown San Antonio. This was not a quick trip to the library. No. We lived a good 20 minute drive away from the main library and this meant we had to eat dinner before we left because, as I’m sure you can well imagine, once I got to the library, I was not leaving until it closed.

So after we finished an early dinner my dad would tell us to get in the car and he would drive to downtown San Antonio so I could have my evening at the library. My brother would come sometimes too but he was irrelevant to me at that time. He only got in my way and got bored quickly so it was better when he didn’t go. This was mine and my daddy’s night. We’d drive around looking for an open parking meter, park, feed the meter (I got to do that too!) and walk to the main entrance of the library.

As soon as we walked in, I literally ran up the steps to the 3rd floor where the children’s library was located. Dad checked in my last batch of books, then waited for the elevator and eventually made his way up. Meanwhile, I would systematically begin walking up and down every aisle on the floor looking for books that might interest me. My dad, the saint, would make his way to the little kids reading area and sit down to wait. Sometimes, he’d thumb through a book but more often than not, he would just sit there, patiently waiting for me.

I never made it through the entire floor in one evening. Not for lack of trying, though. I walked, head turned sideways so I could read titles better, pulled books halfway out so I could scan the cover. If it looked interesting, I’d pull the book all the way out and open it so I could read the description on the back or on the sides of the dust jacket. If it sounded good after that, I added it to my pile. After I had more books than I could easily carry, I made my way to a table, dumped them all and proceeded to read the first two pages of every book. If I was hooked after the first few pages, they made my “take-home” pile and the rest I dutifully re-shelved. Pretty soon, I had a pile of books that I would then have to cull again (because libraries put LIMITS ON YOU. Why? I don’t know?!) to choose the books that would be making the journey home with me.

Week after week, month after month, my dad and I followed this ritual. My dad was a man of few words. He didn’t often say, “I love you” because I suppose men at that time weren’t really big into expressing affection like that. But I knew he loved me because he did this  for me without a gripe. Ever. Proof positive…we also had a book-mobile that parked itself near our neighborhood once a week but daddy never took me there unless I needed to return some books and check out others in between main library visits. He could have copped out of our library visit, but he rarely did. He could have told me it was too far to drive. He could have said he was tired from a long day at work. He could have found any one of many reasons to back out, but he didn’t.

So I believe I owe my love of all things books to my mom, who taught me to love to read, and to my dad who willingly fed my voracious appetite for books without once complaining how much it cost him.


Throw Aways?

I think it’s amazing what people will throw away.

I started this blog as a “companion” to my bookstore, The Literary Heart, and to talk about books that have influenced me over the years. However, I’m breaking from that strategy for a minute to talk about how perplexing it is to me that books aren’t always viewed as valuable objects.

I know they’re just ink, paper, cardboard, and glue. But they’re also full of a person’s stories, dreams, yearnings, and imaginations. Someone took the time to sit in front of a typewriter, or word processor, or computer for hours at a time to gather their thoughts and turn them into something scary, wonderful, disturbing, informative, awe-inspiring, gorgeous, or sad. True…some of them are duds. There are some books that I will probably never pick up again. But what amazes me most, are the number of books I find in thrift stores, or on Craig’s List, in almost brand new condition with personal inscriptions from the authors of those books.

Does this mean that someone took the time to stand in line somewhere to wait, sometimes for hours, for this particular author to sign their book, only to toss it aside nonchalantly a few years later? If someone took the time to sit and sign their books, and I took the time to actually meet that person and get their signature on a book…I’m not sure I could ever get rid of it, even if it turns out I didn’t like the book after I read it. After all, I created a connection of sorts to that book and the person who created it.

Are we so wrapped up in disposing that we can sever that connection without a second thought?

I suppose so because, to date, I have found at least 6 books signed and/or inscribed by authors to someone. I wish I could find these people and ask them how they came across their books. Did they wait in line for signatures? Did someone who loved them buy them the books with the signature already there? Did they come across the book in a thrift store already signed and did they donate it back to the thrift store after reading it? Am I the only one who feels slightly offended at the idea that these items would be considered cast-offs?

I wonder how authors feel about it. Honestly, as a book seller, I hope the author’s signature boosts my sales and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like that. But at the same time, it makes me a little sad that someone’s story, along with something as personal as their signature, ends up on a thrift store shelf selling for less than a buck.


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