The Power of Books

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”

– J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Isn’t that so true?  I believe I have mentioned in a previous post that our family is currently reading The Swiss Family Robinson.  Father Swiss, as we like to call him, knows a lot about every animal, plant and fish of the sea plus everything you can do with it!  We have so much fun discovering things through his voice.  I wish we could chat with this fictional character.

Good books have been like comfort food to us while we are here.  I am seeing the French language come to life in my children and my husband but it hurts your brain to have it working so hard even for basic encounters like checking out at a store or hearing a French announcement in a train station.  So even though we have all found joy in reading before this experience, books are now even more pleasurable because they offer a place and time to relax and escape.  Sarah has a classmate whose mother told me she read through the Harry Potter series several times in August before school started and her mom believes it was because the characters were like good friends to her, familiar and comfortable, before she was able to start school and create friends of her own.

The past five days have found us in Rome (next blog entry).  Julian and I are currently in the middle of books so any spare moment in our Rome apartment or traveling on a bus, train or plane found us tucked in our with story.  I’m reading The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender.  It came out about 18 months ago and I had read about it then.  My Paris book club has selected it and since we’re meeting on Monday, thought I better make sure I finish.  The characters are certainly quite sad, as the title alludes, which makes for a mournful book to read.  But I have become committed to the characters now and want to see their story through.  (Our book last month was The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett which was the most joyful little book…only 90 some pages…highly recommended, especially for others that find pleasure in reading.)

Julian’s friend, Nicholas, brought him the second and third book in the Rick Riordan series, The Kane Chronicles, so he has been consumed by Book Two, The Throne of Fire.  As much as he enjoys a good video game and playing Ninja on the streets with his sisters, every time an offer has been made over the last couple days he has, without lifting his eyes from the book, waved them off so he can continue reading.

Last night found us flying back to Paris.  The girls and Tom were in the row behind us chatting away and giggling about stolen cookies and hair gel.  Julian and I were all quiet, both in our own book worlds, me about halfway through and Julian with only four chapters to go.  The kids like to ask me about how my books are as I’m reading them so they knew my current book was a bit depressing.  About an hour into the flight Julian quietly asked, “Is your book sad?”  I replied, “No, it’s not really sad but the characters are just unhappy people.”  A moment later I caught a glance at my glassy-eyed son and asked him, “Is your book sad?”  The tears began streaming down his face.  “Did something happen to a main character?” I asked, hugging him close.  “No, it’s someone new in this book.”  He didn’t say any more and I didn’t ask because I didn’t want to break the spell the book had on him at that moment.  But I did say, “This is the sign of a very, very good book because it has become real.”  He wiped his eyes and sniffed for a few more minutes as he powered on.  Within 30 minutes he looked at me and said, “Done.  But I always read the Author’s Notes, don’t you?”  Little smile, tired eyes.  Yes, this is the same boy that loves his sports, loves the dumb humor that almost every 11-year-old boy loves.  But he is also the one that knows I want to hold someone’s hand during take-off and, without saying a word, slips his hand in mine for the landing, too.  Special moments that have nothing to do with living in Paris but make me so grateful.  So happy.

I thought I would share some additional “good book” quotes.  I found there are too many to choose just one!

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
― Jane Austen

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
― G.K. Chesterton

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
― Jorge Luis Borges

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
― Groucho Marx

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”
― Lemony SnicketHorseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
― Oscar Wilde

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
― Haruki MurakamiNorwegian Wood

“I would have thought,” said the prime minister, “that Your Majesty was above literature.”
“Above literature?” said the Queen. “Who is above literature? You might as well say one is above humanity.”
― Alan BennettThe Uncommon Reader

Categories: Kelley's Kilometers | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “The Power of Books

  1. Colleen Hartman

    Kelley, I loved this blog!!!! As you well know, I am a book person and usually have one that I can’t wait to get back too. However I have been so busy lately that I just can’t get involved in one. I finished one on the train on the way to Denver when sleep wasn’t happening. I must be a rairity as I was not entranced with The Five People You Meet in Heaven. It was well written and certainly creative and thoughtful but just didn’t grab me. I can identifyu with J. as even as a child could be moved to tears. Our book club is skipping Nov. and Dec. as we are all too busy. Several people have asked me to come back to the church group club but when they meet I always have something scheduled. I miss it but really don’t have the time right now to do my part!

  2. Karen Hoffmeier

    What a great blog. I read a lot more now than when I was working all the time. Most of the people that I’m around are also reader so that makes for some good conversations. I need to get in a book club again. Glad that Julian gets involved in books. I can also be brought to tears quickly. Finished “Tattoos of the Heart” by Gregory Boyle and about a third of the way through “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time”.

  3. Linda

    Hi Kelley,

    As I was glancing through my emails, your title caught my eye. Usually, I like to read your blog later at night when no one can interrupt me but today, I couldn’t wait to start reading it. I love books and today I discovered that one of my neighbors installed a Little Free Library at the edge of their property. It is perfect in many ways but you can appreciate the exterior as well as the purpose. They decorated their library like a London telephone booth. It is bright red with a latice pattern. As you know, these little libraries are all over the world. I challenge you & your family to find a little library and take a photo. I eagerly await your next tale about your travel to Rome.

    P.S. I’m reading Same Sun Here. I highly recommend it to Elizabeth, Julian, Sarah and you & Tom.


  4. Megan

    So sweet- love those sensitive boys, having a dear one myself 🙂

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