Sunday, October 25, 2009

Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.
                                                    Arnold Lobel

My family has always had a thing about books.  Our home was a veritable library.  Each room had a collection larger than the room before it.  Books were accumulated, treated as collectibles, acquired as trophies.  Books were revered, respected, and amassed in large quantities.

Growing up before computers were common in every home and before every answer was just a Google search away, we had a library of knowledge at our fingertips.  Assignments were not completed at the school library, they were completed by standing in front of the living room bookshelves.  Each bookshelf had lines of history books, art books, biographies, and the occasional Pierre Burton thrown in.

Each one of us developed our own personal library early on.  Small shelves were erected and quickly filled with treasured copies of Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and old westerns.  There were books to be handled carefully and then there were books to be devoured.  Favourite books were dog eared, spine bent, and tattered.  They showed physical memories of each read - tear splotched obscured words, book jackets curved with handling, pages soft with the oils of many hands.

Books have remained a staple for each of us.  Walls are lined with copies of everything from early edition classic novels to crisp new books ready to be perused.  Each sibling has created a collection speaking to their own individuality --some books are present in each collection, while others are miles apart in kind, topic, and intellect.  All are dearly loved and rarely parted with.  Those of us with spouses have heard the lament of too many books (as if there were a such thing!) and fought for space and exhibition.

When I was about 10 years old, a friend gave me a beautiful, gilded copy of Jane Eyre.  The friend was well above the normal intellect and most of us in her circle read books well beyond our assigned grades.  This book was special.  It was hardcover bound in leather, with a beautiful picture of a girl (presumably Jane) on it's cover.  The pages were edged with gold and were made of a thin material that felt as though it would tear with any touch.

I placed the book reverently on a shelf and left it there.  I would often take it in my hands, feel the raised leather with my fingertips, and gaze at the picture.  I would then place it back on the shelf.  I never read it.  The book was too pretty to treat as I did the other books I loved.  Books that are now coming apart at the seams having been read at least a hundred times.  This book has sat on my shelf in one room or another, moved from house to house and never been read.

Finally, as an adult, I decided to read it.  I tend to be hesitant to read anything labelled "a classic piece of literature".  It stems from both laziness and refusal to do what others tell me to do.  However, each time I have read a classic they quickly become one of my favourites.  I looked at the beautiful book on my shelf and hesitated.  It was then I went out and purchased a second copy - soft cover with no elaborate picture or decoration.   I am well into the book now and love it.  I'm a little put off by the Bronte love of run on sentences, however, the characters and the story make me wish I had read it years ago.

When I have a little girl, I will pass on my beautiful copy of Jane Eyre.  I will help her put it on her shelf.  And then, I will take her to the store to get a copy she can read.


  1. Wonderful. Well written. Superb title. Someday you can publish a book "Best of Buggering Crap Monkies".

  2. That was one of your best posts. You teared me up. I haven't read Jane Eyre, but it is definitely on my list.

  3. Wonderful. Books are such a lovely topic. I'm always interested in the idea of book-as-object vs. book-as-content. You reminded me of my own childhood relationship with books, and how it has shaped my personal library and my adult relationship with books.

  4. Great post! Jane Eyre is one of my favorites.

  5. prairie nymph01/11/2009, 18:29

    we must be related. i liked jane eyre when i was in junior high. then i was irate- she was too good for him. and i suspect that- ooops, you haven't finished. aargh. desire to gossip over respect for finding out the ending on your own...
    when you're done, i'll tell you why i despise him.

  6. I finished the book! It was good. Except that it took a really long time to get to the point. But I will read it again and see what I think. PN, I totally see why you didn't like him. However, him in the end (I don't want to ruin it for anyone) is supposed to make it okay that he is kind of a jerk. I still liked it.


Crap monkies say "what?"