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As I’ve no doubt mentioned several times, I have a tradition of reading the same book each spring. Since spring has been curiously delayed this year, no doubt having remembered some sudden and unavoidable appointment elsewhere, it has taken me a long time to finish my book this year. We have a week of rain, flood watches, and yes, even some potential snowflakes in the forecast, and I still have not reached the point in the book that makes me cry my eyes out in a sort of cleansing purge. The book is Anne of Green Gables,(go ahead, call me juvenile), originally published by L.M. (Lucy Maude) Montgomery in 1908. My copy is a little yellow paperback that I got some 40 years ago in a bookstore in Northgate Mall, a few blocks from my house. It was between a “This End Up” store and a store that sold fireplace implements and other impracticalities – from which I bought my brother a lovely Spanish sword for Christmas one year. (Thankfully, he never used it on me, though I’m sure he was mightily tempted.)

While I have read the other “Anne books”, this is the one that touches my spirit. The author has a way of weaving magic and beauty out of common images and words, even tweaking them to her own words when actually OED words just don’t suffice. I know I have a tendency to do that too, and that the way Anne sees the world is the way I see it: looking in nature and treasuring moments of beauty that are transitory yet everlasting in memory. L.M. Montgomery seems to capture all the hopes and dreams and sorrows and quiet joys of a young person’s future in her portrayal of Anne, and while I am not a “young person” chronologically, I have those same hopes and dreams and joys and sorrows, some now bittersweet memories and others anticipated with all the optimism of a teenager. And ll the enthusiasm of spring, when it finally throws off its cloak of gray and shows its true colors.

Anne of Green Gables

My version of the book is slightly shabby from numerous readings, has no copyright date, and isn’t even visible on Google images, and has a photo of a girl who someone at Tempo Books thought looked like Anne, but I disagree. I have my own vision, painted by L.M. Montgomery’s words, which is far more lovely and moontouched. And I highly recommend it if you need to bring a touch of spring and hope into your life.

Quote of the day:“Dear old world’, she murmured, ‘you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.” — L.M. Montgomery (of course)

Daily gratitudes:

I am blessed to work across the street from the marvelous Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver. The Tattered (as we so fondly call it) has tiptoed in and out of my life in Colorado up until now.

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Decades ago, ex-Pat took me to Denver early in our dating years. At that time, the hip, trendy place now known as LoDo was still a long stretch of abandoned warehouses that served rail freight companies once upon a time. There were no sidewalks, only weedy and cracked asphalt streets. He boosted me up onto one of the old concrete loading docks because I wanted to see what it felt like up there. Homeless people were sleeping in ragged heaps in the deserted doorways. It was very quiet. There was a dangerous feel to the place. The two holdovers from the area’s glory days were Union Station, Denver’s railroad depot, and the Tattered. Entering that magical bookstore was like being transported into a fantasy come to life. It felt old and full of treasures, with creaky wooden floors and cushy deep chairs. We didn’t stay, as Pat wasn’t a fan of bookstores, and I suspect we were in search of champagne, but our brief visit remained bright in my memory.

Even though Boulder is only 25 miles distant from Denver, it was not a place I went often, until I started working downtown. About six years ago, I tried taking Kelsea to the Tattered, and I couldn’t find it. It was as if it had vanished. I thought I knew where I was going. I even looked it up on Google Maps. But it completely eluded me, and I decided that it must have gone the way of all flesh – or of many independent bookstores – and closed. The updated Tattered Cover, locate on Colfax Avenue in a former record store, was a disappointing shadow of my memory.

In some secret space of my mind, I believe that it had hidden itself from me on that day, using a building-sized invisibility cloak. I didn’t need it then, and so it was not available to me.

A year later, I stumbled upon it one lovely blue Saturday when I was downtown, after I had turned my life upside-down. I wandered around inside, completely bewildered, because I knew that I had been here before, and I knew that, the last time I looked for it, it had been gone. But yet, here it was. And here I was, baffled, but delighted.

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After a cruel turn of events, when my life again capsized, the ropes I tossed out pulled me to this job across the street, where most days, I have the pleasure playing with words, and I am privileged to call myself a writer. I still make the distinction between the writing job that pays, and my own writing, which doesn’t, but I am a writer regardless. A dream come true, even if it is not right now exactly how I would have dreamed it.

The Tattered has played a large role in my courtship with MKL, which really started from another of those lifelines I tossed out back when I was drowning two years ago. We work at opposite ends of the 16th Street Mall, and so we have lunch together nearly every day, which has allowed our relationship to bloom in a different way than if we were having only weekend dates full of playing and passion. We have had a chance to talk more than most couples do when they are dating, perhaps more than most couples who have been together for many years. Tattered, where they now serve soups and sandwiches, coffee and tea, has been one of our favorite destinations, and the staff all know us there, and think we’re adorable. When one of us shows up without the other, we usually have to explain.

This morning, I stopped in to see if I could find an impulse card for him. None of the cards felt right today, but I did. I had been feeling anxious, as I have been feeling for some days now, and being in the Tattered soothed me. I found books to add to my “Desiderata” list, along with a sense of peace and quiet delight.

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I have gone there to shed tears and to find silence. I have felt heartbreak and joy within its comforting walls. I have listened to favorite authors, found friends, and reveled in the feel and scent of books.

If a place can be an anchor, the Tattered is one for me. Not an anchor in the sense that it keeps me from moving. An anchor in that it provides me with a sense of timeless security, of stability. It reflects my past and my future, breathes whispers of my parents and the places I was raised, and reminds me that there are always new words waiting to be discovered, some of them my own.

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Bookstores.

Some of the most magical places in the world for people (like me) who love books and treasure hunting.

While the big box bookstores (few and far between as they are now) are okay, they just can’t hold a candle to the little used bookstores. And really, it’s not a good idea to hold a candle IN a little used bookstore. Especially not the one I found last weekend.

Abbs Volume I in Littleton ( 6905 S. Broadway) is just the kind of bookstore that you dream of finding. It’s very unprepossessing on the outside – two rocking chairs by the front door in a strip mall. But on the inside, it looks like this:

Fabulous used bookshop

And this:

Used bookshop Apps Volume I

And this:

Apps Volume I bookstore

And this:

Used bookstore - Apps Volume I

It took up two buildings, and I totally got lost in it. When MKL came in to meet me, he had to look for five minutes to find me, and finally had to ask the woman at the desk if there was a woman in there somewhere. He found me buried in the stacks, with ten books in my arms and a blissful  smile of joy in my eyes. I was so excited!

Finding a great used bookstore is like finding a treasure chest. A treasure chest that is so deep you could spend a whole day digging through it and only have scratched the surface.

Insert sigh of pleasure here.

As you can see from the images above, it was a little hard to see all the titles because things were stacked so high from the floor up. But it was very well organized by category, and that was nice. While paperbacks were only $2 each, and that is the bulk of their inventory, they also had a large selection of older books, some rare, some not so rare, but all somewhat overpriced. Still, when you find an old copy of a book you’ve wanted to read for years, you sometimes splurge a bit.

Old edition of Life With Father

We tried to hit one other bookshop that I spent ten minutes in about 14 years ago and have always remembered and yearned for but had no clue where it was. We found it next to the Gothic Theater a few months ago, and I was super excited! But unfortunately, it wasn’t open when we stopped by. It strikes me as the sort of place that is only open when the quirky proprietor gentleman is in the mood to tolerate other people.

So, I still have that weird garden of delights awaiting me. Yea!

Kelsea and I always like finding cool bookstores on our travels. We adored Powell’s in Portland. We were passionate about Hay-on-Wye in Wales, which I know I’ve mentioned before. And we found ourselves in some waaaay seedy neighborhoods in San Francisco where bookstores were supposed to be, but weren’t. Next time we travel and make a cool bookshop find, we’ll share it with you.

I used to follow a blog by someone who was going to visit and blog about all the bookshops in London. I think she let it fall by the wayside, because I can’t find it anymore (TBM, are you up for a new challenge?). Perhaps I’ll try to do a similar thing in Denver. I like that idea!

Happiness is burying yourself in a book in a big cozy chair on a chilly winter night.

It’s Teaser Tuesday (at least still in some time zones) – thanks to  http://shouldbereading.wordpress.com.

The point of Teaser Tuesday is as follows:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their Deisderata Lists if they like your teasers!

Here’s my contribution for the week:

“We are experiencing these mysterious coincidences. and even though we don’t understand them yet, we know they are real. We are sensing again, as in childhood, that there is another side of life that we have yet to discover.”

— From The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

Thanks to TBM for tuning me in to Teaser Tuesdays, a weekly meme run by http://shouldbereading.wordpress.com.

Devoted readers might enjoy adding some books to their “Desiderata” lists (as my folks used to call theirs).

The point of Teaser Tuesday is as follows:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other Teaser Tuesday participants can add the book to their Deisderata Lists if they like your teasers!

Here’s my contribution for the week:

“Once upon a time, astronauts tooled around the moon in an open two-seat electric buggy. It was the sort of thing one might see on a golf course or at one of those big Miami delis whose elderly patrons appreciate a lift to and from the parking lot.”

p175, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach.

I have talked a lot about my love of books.  I’ve grown up with them.  I keep them.  I treasure them.  They’re like my favorite food.  Bookstores are the refuge of my soul, my best escape short of an island.  The cottage has shelves and shelves of books, mostly unread.  They sit there, patient little souls, waiting for their own moment in the sun.

A corner of the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, Colorado

I choose my books carefully.  There are so very many that I would love to read.  If only I could find a job that paid me wagonloads of money to read the books of my choice.  As it is, I suppose I will have to wait for heaven, which, I am sure, is filled with books and puppies and beaches and horses and ….well, a few other wonderful things.

Dutch, Puglet and Dice: this image is from one of my favorite blogs The Daily Puglet. Its author is a fantastic pet photographer whose work can be seen (and whose services can be requested) at http://frolicphoto.com.

The book I’m reading now is the second in a series of historical mystery/adventures by William Dietrich.  I adored the first one.  It was one of those books you stay up too late reading, and fall asleep with the lights on, the book still poised in your hand.  The kind you can’t wait to finish, but hate for it to end.  Needless to say, I couldn’t wait for the next book.  I can still remember when I found it in the grocery store when it came out – I practically shrieked with delight.  I shook Kelsea.  I hugged it to my bosom.  I had to finish the book I was reading before I could start it. 

Epilogue Book Company in Steamboat Springs, Colorado

And that last statement hints at The Reading Dilemma.

Sign in the Epilogue Book Company

I did finish the book I was reading at the time.  And I was delighted to start my new prize.  I got about 20 pages into it…and I was bored. Bored, bored, bored.  I couldn’t believe it, after all that anticipation.  It just wasn’t grabbing me.  I set it aside with the thought that I would take it on vacation  —  maybe I just wasn’t in the proper headspace to enjoy it.  But vacation time came and went and I took along slightly skinnier, lighter fare.

Black Cat Book Shop, Manitou Springs, Colorado

Well, I finally picked it up again a couple of weeks ago.  I started it.  And it still isn’t holding me.  But now, I’m determined.  I’m going to finish it if it kills me.  And that’s the Dilemma.  I absolutely WILL NOT give up on a book once I’ve started it.  No matter how bad it is, how boring it is, how confusing it is.  So here I am, not really enjoying the book, just trying to get through it.  It’s become work, not passion. 

The Bookworm, Boulder, Colorado

I don’t know why I don’t give myself permission not to finish a book I don’t like.  Who do I think I am failing, betraying or otherwise letting down by doing so?  I mean, no one would know about it but me.  Perhaps it’s a tint of my stubborn streak.  Or perhaps it’s a shadow of my feeling that everyone and everything has something good, worthwhile and valuable within it.  Which is why I don’t give up on jobs or relationships even when they might not be the best things for me.

Interesting to think that my attitude towards books is just a reflection of my attitude towards life – and love.

Growing up immersed in books creates a lifelong connection with the written word and the pages upon which those words rest.

As the daughter of two librarians, I have been surrounded by books for my entire life.  Our house was full of them, floor-to-ceiling shelves lining both sides of the front hallway, shelves halfway up two of the four living room walls, an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling shelves in the study.  Shelves in my bedroom, in E-Bro’s room, in the dining room, in my parents room.  They were everywhere.  I think my Father actually read all of those books. 

I spent time in at my Father’s office from near-infancy, and shelved books for a few hours after school in my teens.  I loved the old books, the smell of ages, the tissue-fine texture and sound of the pages, the soft, delicate leather of embossed covers – and the millions of thoughts that so many souls had taken the time to write, to share.

The physicality of a book is, for me, still a large part of the reading experience.  I love used books, the older the better.  The feel of holding a book, turning pages, having it fall from your hands once you sleep, cannot be replicated with an audiobook or a Kindle or something similar.  Who has not finished a journey through a book, closed the cover for the last time, and held it to their heart, reveling in the feeling of quiet peace, power and transformation gained from the tale? 

A good bookstore (preferably used) is a place of refuge for me.  After the deaths of each of my parents, I found myself gravitating towards bookstores for solace at the end of many days.  A turn down an aisle would lead me to traveller’s journals, another turn to classics, yet another to histories, to recipes, to biographies, to mysteries.  Aisles became isles for me, each offering an escape to a different delight, even though I might have to dig a bit to find the treasure hidden within.

My once-favorite used bookstore has now fallen out of favor.  For years owned by a proprietor who was friendly to customers, curious about all books, and who would buy almost anything brought into the store for trade, he sold it to family members who are curt and stingy and have sucked the charm out of the shop.

A place on Pearl Street has become a pleasant haunt, run by an eccentric man who sits in a veritable cave of books behind a glass top counter.  He seems to know every volume in his huge hodgepodge three-room shop.  It’s the spot to go to for something old, unusual or unexpected.

The primary independent bookstore in Boulder has started selling used books as well – mostly newer publications.  While the store has always been inviting, the addition of the used books makes perusals and discoveries there even more intriguing.  It’s a large, airy place, with comfortable chairs and its own personality, unlike the Borders and Barnes and Noble chains, which, while cushy-seated, seem soulless in their energy and offerings.

Curiously, I did not marry a reader.  Pat has only read a few books since he left school, though he reads newspapers and magazines.  Most books just cannot hold his attention.  I can’t imagine the quantity of books we’d have had if he HAD been a reader.  But Kelsea is a reader, voracious, like me.  I read her her first book, One Leaf Fell, when she was eight days old.

Kelsea and I have both said we’d love to run our own bookshop one day, and she dreams of going to live in Hay-on-Wye in Wales, used bookstore capital of the world, where she can browse and read to her heart’s content.  I myself would be happy just reading and writing, taking pictures and walking on a beach for the remainder of my days.

One of the blogs I drop in on from time to time is http://madbookcollection.blogspot.com.  The author is cataloging his extensive collection on his blog.  I don’t know why it so intrigues me, but it does.  I suppose it’s the notion of another bibliophile, one who has had the privilege and luxury of keeping his books, rather than borrowing or reselling them, that appeals to me.  Would that I could have such a library myself.

I still have shelves of books at Pat’s house and shelves of books at the cottage.  Those at Pat’s are ones I can’t part with, but have no room for in my little house.  Those in the cottage are mostly unread, patiently waiting upon the shelves for their turn, their time, which is when the mood strikes me.  There are dozens in queue, and more added more often than I should, given my meager income at the moment.  Someday, I will have a white room opening onto the sea with floor-to-ceiling shelves on three walls to hold my books.  Then perhaps, I will finally be home.

August 2019
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