It’s embarrassing, really. For a person who LOVES books, and has written her own, I rarely can complete reading a book. I buy them all the time. I can’t walk pass a book that catches my eye without stopping to pick it up. Once it is in my hands, most likely, it will come home with me.
I am an Internet junkie and buy books on Amazon late at night, when I take a break from my own writing, to see what is new in my favorite book categories online. You will find me on Ebay at 3 AM, searching for vintage books, using the key words “garden” and “flower” and “children” followed by the word, “book”.
My favorite place to buy books is at my local thrift store. It is a definite treasure hunt, hit or miss, but one worth doing. Some of my large coffee table decorating books and gardening books have come from the thrift store, at a mere fraction of what they cost new. An example is the huge book on Calloway Gardens, Georgia, I found recently, complete with full color photos on every page and an introduction by Atlanta’s late Celestine Sibley. Sibley was an Atlanta newspaper columnist, who died in 1999. Her columns and books embodied commonplace Southern life. I held the book close to my chest, closed my eyes, and took in the moment of perfect harmony – a visit to the thrift store and a rare book to add to my collection. The book cost a mere $1.99.
Small, independent bookshops are another favorite. I love the cozy way most are decorated. Many of the smaller owned bookshops have weekly book signings for authors. It is fun to frequent those close to home. Some specialize in gently used books as well as new books. I am on the mailing list of several locally owned bookshops and every week my “in box” is full of temptation, as I bring in my e-mail. It is important to frequent small bookshops to help keep them in business. They have some pretty steep competition in this age of technology.
I must have a three-foot high stack of books next to my bed. I know they are piled high on my coffee table, and they are scattered on bookshelves throughout my house. They collect dust, but I call them my dream catchers. For every book I buy, something in that book has touched my heart and made me dream for a few minutes of a far away place, a perfect garden, a true romance, or a reflection on life that makes me reflect on my own life in a different light.
I have a collection of late 1800’s gardening books, art books and decorating books. I love children’s books with a simple life message and naïve illustrations. I can’t pass up a book that has a dog on the cover!
Yet, I rarely read a book to completion. I flip through pages and read a few chapters. I skip to the end of a mystery book to fine out “who done it”, even though I don’t know exactly what was done. I love decorating books and fall asleep looking at rooms, thinking; maybe I should do that at home.
The truth is I am a collector, rather than a reader! Does it really matter in the long run? I am doing my best to keep the book industry thriving, by purchasing new books. I feel I am saving a bit of history, buying antique books. I am keeping booksellers in business! That is important in a book world that is rapidly changing and disappearing.
Do you think books that you hold in your hand will finally be replaced by e-books, Kindle, Nook? I find that so sad. It is lovely to have the convenience of downloading a book to a small device you can carry with you. But, you can carry a book with you, too.
Books have always held a fascination for me. I love to touch them, hold them, and flip through their pages, carefully taking in typeset, layout, and illustrations. Vintage books, such as those in my gardening collection, amaze me with their beauty. Until you hold a book from an earlier age, and look at the depth of color of a chromolithograph or a hand colored plate, you don’t know the true beauty of the word “illustration”.
I love the history of vintage books and like to imagine who enjoyed them. I am especially excited if someone has written in the book; their name, their good wishes, if the book was a present for a friend, and the date the book was “claimed” for self, or “given” as a gift.
I recently bought a book on Ebay, “Garden and Hedgerow” with color plates by Lucy Burton. The book is, of course, a gardening book, first published in 1939 in London. The book came to me from England. It was an exciting moment to hold the small package with its interesting stamps from a country I dream about, and, for just a moment, let the anticipation of my new “old” purchase, that had traveled so far from home, fill me with wonder. My pleasure was escalated when the previous owner had signed her name in the book with the date 1941. Maybe there have been other owners, but I know in 1941, Ms. Kenyon held this book!
New books amaze me too. I am fond of memoirs and if you search “memoirs” in Amazon’s book section, you will be amazed at how many people have a story to tell. The new art books with their huge format and full page photographs can make me feel like I’ve visited an art gallery. Gentle children’s books remind me of my childhood.
I think it is our responsibility to pass the heritage of books to our children. Don’t let them forget there are real, tangible books to hold and read. I love all the modern conveniences that technology offers us today, but not at the expense of forgetting the printed book. The beauty of books, whether you read them or collect them, saves an art form that is irreplaceable. Do you part, buy a book!
Barbara Barth, CEO of Life