The Joy of Books and Books and More Books

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

Bill just finished a stunning new addition to the upstairs guest room we fondly call.
“Deb’s Room.” I think my sister Deborah will be very happy with the 20-foot long bookcase installation which will relieve closet shelves throughout our home, groaning under their burden of books and more books for the last four and one half years.
My usually very patient husband could hardly wait to let the paint dry before he was dragging boxes of antique books, my university textbooks (not the same!), Bible Study notebooks, my children’s, my grandchildren’s, and even a few of my own Little Golden books. “Stop!! Please!” I looked like a crossing guard in my efforts to keep him from pulling another 60 pounds from the attic.
I wanted to do a careful inventory and shelve the books, if not in Dewey Decimal System, at least in like-themes. I am afraid that it will take months, perhaps years, before I will have the boxes and closets emptied. As I lift each volume, I bring it to my cheek; I love to feel and then smell those that are made of leather; the dusty, cloth bindings of others make my nose twitch, and I sometimes emit a series of little sneezes as I place it among the much-loved books of my past.
Mysteries. I have a long love affair with the mystery novel. I still have the copy of what was most likely my first proper hardback book. Honey Bunch was a terrifically bright little girl who was able to discern solutions to quite demanding problems at the young age of five! Her adventures didn’t keep me entertained for very long, but not to worry for, waiting in the wings to keep me thrilled for years to come was the intrepid girl-detective Nancy Drew. There on my new shelves I have three of the iconic blue cardboard “hardbacks.”
I adored this perky young blond teen…still do. Who wouldn’t want a sister just like her when you were only nine years old and my own dream of driving a pale blue convertible like hers was still years ahead. “The Clue in the Crumbling Wall.” “The Clue in the Leaning Chimney,” “The Secret of the Old Clock.” Wonderful stuff. I can now admit that I am guilty of pleading a tummy ache in order to stay home from school all tucked up in bed, sipping Seven Up and finishing the latest Nancy Drew mystery. All now in my Young Adult fiction section.
Sir Walter Scott’s “Lady of the Lake” published in 1820 has the most gorgeous illustrations (it took thirty minutes to shelve this beauty), an early 19th century “Collected Works of Shakespeare” has a 4″ spine that is grumbling. I mourn the damage, try to come up with a Superglue fix. I gently place The Bard on a shelf by itself. I will come back later…I promise.
I long to sit quietly by my shelves after the task of shelving is done. I imagine myself running my index finger along the spines, searching for something I have just never had time to read, something that deserves careful perusing. But then, I would stop at Barbara Kingsolver; almost everything she has written from “The Poisonwood Bible” to “The Bean Tree” to “Prodigal Summer.”
As I added both a hardback and paperback copy of John Irvin’s “A Prayer for Owen Meany,” to the lower Fiction shelves, I opened the paperback to the title page. The inscription I had written there when I presented it to a student in 1989 was not the only one on the page. Philip had written his own lovely note on the occasion of my retirement, thanking me for the book and for what he believed I had meant to his life. Precious!
There are many books signed by the authors, many I have met and heard them read from their work, and I have shared a drink or a meal with them. James Dickey whose poetry leaves me breathless and whose child’s book dedicated to his young daughter is the best fantasy genre I have ever read. David Bottoms, another fine Southern poet, was a guest in my classroom, as was Terry Kaye, author of “Dancing with the White Dog.” He made a special trip to the GP building in Atlanta to deliver signed copies for me. John Ransom, once poet laureate of Georgia came to McIntosh High School and to my Creative Writing class. He addressed two of his books to me, wishing me well in my writing efforts. God bless him. So many approachable writers that I met over the years became more than just a signature. I’ll put those in a special section. None more special and delightful than children’s writer Carmen Deedy. But she is another story. I think I will save her for later.
But the ones which were gifts from dear people in my life and who left part of themselves on the pages of my books, those sentiments are so lovely, so sweet, so beautiful that they bring me to tears over and over.
I have chosen and selected these books carefully. I count them among my best friends. And they now have a home where I can visit them every day. I love that. Thank you Bill. What an amazing gift. I love you for it..

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