An Ode to Books

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When I think about this month’s theme of Loved and Lost, I think about the 800 plus books in my house.

Instead of having a dining room or a formal living room like normal, practical people, my husband and I have a room devoted to our books.

His books are almost exclusively non-fiction and mine almost exclusively fiction. Between the two of us, we have everything from Jane Austen to Stephen Pinker. A person of any taste or interest could be stranded in our house for a month with no electricity and never be bored.

Some of the books are beloved old friends I received as gifts when I was a kid, like Little Women and The Black Stallion. Others are more recent acquisitions. Before we had children, my husband and I would spend rainy weekends roaming used books stores, looking for new friends to read and add to our shelves.

Our library has two comfortable wingback chairs and reading lamps. On a cold, grey day, with a fire, a cup of tea and a book, it’s my favorite place in the world. At night, my kids gather in the library and I read Harry Potter aloud.

We open Christmas and birthday presents in the library. It’s a special room, not utilitarian like the kitchen or cluttered with technology and noise like the family room. It’s like stepping into the past. Quiet. Calm. And best of all, the shelves are filled with some of the finest friends I’ve ever had.

I love it. But someday, I know it will be lost.

My husband has already stopped contributing to our shelves. He switched to e-books a long time ago. But I still remain devoted to print books. My idea of a dystopian future is a world where libraries and Barnes and Noble close their doors and there are no more print books to be found.

Wendy Williams recently wrote a great book called The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion. Think for a moment about the horse’s utility and ubiquity throughout most of human history. Now ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a real, live horse?

Loved and lost. Will printed books share the same fate as the horse?

Will my kids really want to move 800 books into their homes when my husband and I are gone? Will used bookstores still exist if they want to offload our beloved volumes to someone else?

Or maybe I don’t need to worry. Just like people we’ve loved, good books stay with us long after they’re physically gone. They linger inside our mind and eventually become part of our memories and thoughts. Maybe if you truly love something, it’s never really lost at all.

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