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Archive for the ‘Member Memories: Our Love of Books’ Category

Book Lover’s Week – How reading books might just get you a pony!

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

by Mary S. (kilchurn)


I honestly can’t remember the first book I encountered.  Ask my mother though, and she’ll tell you that she read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to me every night for over a year.  That’s probably why now, over 35 years later, I can recite that poem by heart.  According to mom, I made her give Peter Rabbit the same treatment (although I only remember parts of that story, not word for word).  I know that I read or had read to me, many, many books during my toddler years.  I loved the time spent with my grandmother as she read Little Black Sambo to me (over and over).

It wasn’t until I turned 8 that books took on a new life for me.  My next door neighbor got a horse and like all 8 year old little girls, I was enthralled.  I begged my mother endlessly for a horse of my own.  After what I am sure was an exhausting session of my outlining why I deserved a horse, my mother wisely (or so she thought) told me I could have a horse after I turned 10 and after I had learned everything there was to know about them.


Thus began the “reading for a reward” phase of my life.  I ended up going to the one place in my small town where I could find information.  The library.  I cannot tell you how much time I spent in the Mary Willis Library Non-Fiction section (636.1 to be exact – the HORSE section).  I know for a fact that I checked out some of those books so many times that the back and front of many of the book’s checkout cards had my name all over both sides.  I should probably also mention that our World Book Encyclopedia H volume opens to the Horse article when you pick it up.

In reading all of those horse books, I stumbled upon young adult “horse” fiction and the works of Walter Farley.  I read The Black Stallion first and Alec Ramsey became my hero – I wanted so badly to be him.  Not only did he get to travel, but he also got to keep the horse.




photo by Mary - Her name would have been Misty












Marguerite Henry introduced me to Misty of Chincoteague.  The story of Paul and Maureen Beebee, who desperately wanted to own Phantom one of Assateague’s illusive mares resonated with me – I wanted a horse almost more than my next breath.  So much so that when my mother and sister and I visited Chincoteague during Pony Penning, I used all of my allowance to enter a drawing to win one of the foals, I was going to name her Misty.


These stories of children and their bonds with horses gave me hope that one day I would have a horse of my own.  I still have my original copy of Farley’s Man O’ War, one of the few “keeper” books from my childhood.  Stormy, Misty’s Foal, Sea Star: The Orphan of Chincoteague, King of the Wind, and San Domingo: The Medicine Hat Stallion also made their way into my Marguerite Henry collection.



Later, I got my first job at the library that had become my horse haven.  One of my tasks was re-shelving books that had been returned.  During the daily routine of re-shelving books, I noticed “horse” books in the grown-up section of the library.  (Keep in mind that to me at that time a “horse” book had a horse picture on it.  Bluegrass by Borden Deal and Valley of the Horses by Jean Auel taunted me from the upper shelves.  Much to my chagrin, my mother felt that the content was too grown up for me and I was told I couldn’t read those until I was older.  Like most kids, I disobeyed and ended up sneaking reads of Bluegrass during downtime at the library.  I learned a lot about adult relationships from that book as well as a lot about the horse racing business.



During the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, I told my mother that I wanted to read Valley of the Horses.  I remember well the day I went to the big city library to check it out.  That night I sat curled up in my rocking chair and reading until the sun came up.  I saw myself in Ayla.  Both of us had been separated from the only life we’d ever known.  Her story inspired me to accept our move from the small town where I grew up to the big city of Atlanta.  Her story has become a touchstone for me and even today reminds me that no matter how difficult things become, that I can persevere.


In college, I found romance novels.  I read Johanna Lindsey almost exclusively until my junior year.  The romantic tales brought comfort to me when I was hundreds of miles from home.  They were a great escape from the realities of Composition 101 and British Literature 102.


After moving back to Atlanta, I became infatuated with my family history; my Scottish heritage lead me to the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  Like so many other readers, I fell in love with Jamie and Claire.


Later, I was sucked in by Robert Jordan’s world building in his Wheel of Time series.  I had never thought to try fantasy before, but on a friend’s recommendation I bought the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, in 1998. It sat on my shelf for over two years until we entered the “time without television”.  I picked it up and didn’t come up for air until I was completely caught up with the series.



Nowadays, I read fiction for pure pleasure and escapism.  JD Robb’s futuristic homicide detective, Eve Dallas is one of my favorite characters.  I love how a little part of her changes in every book and sometimes I wish that we all could make that one step forward to become better people.



JR Ward’s stunning vampires in her Black Dagger Brotherhood series are my ultimate fantasy.  I never thought I’d want to live in a world inhabited by the undead, but if Caldwell, New York were real, I’d happily be a resident.



I guess what I am saying is that I can’t remember every being without books.  From an early age they were and have remained an integral part of my life.  While I started with every child’s dream of Christmas every day, my reading tastes have evolved over the years; but that is the wonderful thing about books – there are millions of them – with millions of different things to read about.



P.S.  I did get a horse when I was 12.  We had 5 wonderful years together before I left for college.


Ziggy and Mary


Book Lover’s Week – Library Days

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

Michelle's book is Too Many Pockets by Dorothy Levenson

by Michelle H. (mishnpow)


Like I’m sure for most of us here at PBS, my love of books began when I was a child. I don’t specifically remember learning how to read, but I can deduce that it was the year I turned six.



My mom took this picture of me that same year, and this was typical of me at that point (and really, most points) in my life; reading whenever, wherever instead of doing most anything else.



Yes, I was the kid who got in trouble at school for reading too much. As a young reader, my favorite books were old friends I liked to visit again and again. I lost this habit as I got older and realized how many books I had yet to read, and I had to choose wisely because that pesky school kept taking too much time away from my reading.


When I was in 6th grade,  I altruistically volunteered to work in my school library, and, of course, was able to legitimately have time to read if all the books had been shelved by the end of the period. It was during this sanctioned down time that I started my favorite book of all time; A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle.


While as an adult I rarely reread books, I’ve reread that book a couple of times; once when I was in college, and more recently when my children were old enough to read it. Each time, by the middle of the second paragraph I felt like I had been transported back to my elementary school library. I could almost smell the books and picture where I was sitting when I started the book.


Right now, I am reading Waiting for Sunrise by Eva Marie Everson. It is a reminder that unless we deal with our past, we can never really leave it behind.


I’m sure people who don’t love to read have things in their lives that trigger emotions in much the same way, but for me there is nothing as powerful as a book.

Book Lover’s Week – I’m a (Book) Lover, Not a Fighter

Thursday, August 9th, 2012


By Mirah W. (mwelday)


If there was ever a book nerd in this world, it would be me.  And I’m totally fine with the label of book nerd.  In fact, I’m quite proud of it. Maybe I should think about getting it on a t-shirt or a personalized license plate. Although, it’s probably pretty obvious.  I don’t like to carry a purse unless it’s big enough to hold a book.  I’ll read anywhere: the line at the post office, waiting rooms, while on the treadmill or waiting in the car for my husband to get done inside auto parts or home improvement stores.

I developed a book ‘problem’ at a young age. When my schools would have book fairs I would get so excited.  They would give out these little newspaper-like brochures to advertise the books available during the book fair and I would scour the list for hours. I would try to maximize my purchase power and get as many good deals as possible.  It was fabulous.

These days, PaperBackSwap.com is like my book fair.  I’ve lived in some places with not-so-hot public libraries and no bookstores and PBS and my fellow swappers have been lifesavers for me!  (I’ll just add this side note:  thank you to all of the swappers who were willing to go through the extra step of completing a customs form to send me books while we were stationed overseas.  You saved me!)  Since books are almost as important as the air I breathe, I thought I would highlight a few of my most memorable reading experiences and favorite authors for Book Lover’s Day (Week).

I don’t know how old I was when my family went to North Carolina for a family event but I remember reading My Brother Sam is Dead during the drive. I can still feel the paperback and see myself in the backseat with my book.  I cried and cried while reading it. I think it’s the first time I realized books could create such an emotional response for me.

During my senior year in high school my English teacher made us choose our own books to read for a book report.  What did I choose?  The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.  My teacher was skeptical.  It was at least three times longer than most books other students were picking. I mean, it was high school for crying out loud, it wasn’t cool to read books.  I read it, I loved it and from then on I swore longer books were better books.  I love a long book…getting to know the characters, investing the time, not wanting to part ways with fictional ‘friends’.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some doosies that are long and I don’t want to invest my time in them.  I’m sorry Homer, you can go on your own Odyssey, I’ve got other things to read.

And then there’s Lonesome Dove.  I tell you, Larry McMurtry was on to a good thing with that one.  Sorry if this is all sappy but I think Lonesome Dove changed my life.  I felt like a different person when I finished it.  After reading it I felt like I’d been let out of some bubble I had been living in.  I saw the world as a vast place with different people and different ways of life and I was fascinated.  I’ve read it numerous times and every time I cry at the same parts.  I know what’s going to happen but I get so involved it’s like it’s a new experience for me each time.  Now, that’s a good book, people.

Geez, I could go on and on with this so I’ll just touch on one more author.  Where would I be without Jane Austen?  Jane’s my girl.  I feel like if she was living today I’d totally be her stalker.  She was ahead of her time and is an inspiration for me. You know the question people ask at interviews that goes something like: If you could have dinner with three people, dead or alive, who would they be?  Jane would be sitting at my dinner table. I’d even butter her bread for her. Her books are just as relevant today as they were when she wrote them and I can’t get enough.  She should probably be a topic of her own blog post because if I really get started on Jane this thing will be a dissertation.

For me, books are an escape.  They’ve been an outlet for me for many years and I can’t wait to see what books I will read in the years to come.  Whether I am walking through Bath with Anne Elliot, watching the battles of the Revolutionary War, feeling the heat of the Australian outback or going on a cattle drive from Texas to Montana there is always an adventure to be found.  And I’m all about a good adventure.






Book Lover’s Week – Encourage the Young Reader

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

by Susan G. (crazydoglady)


As a teenager my life was not always the most enjoyable.  My mom was divorced from my stepfather, my younger brother (3-1/2 years younger) was in a lot of trouble all the time and my baby brother (7 years younger) had a sleep disorder that made him stay up all night and be a nightmare to get up for school in the morning.  Since my mother worked a mandatory fifty-two hours a week plus the extra time she felt she had to put in to be sure the store was run with the efficiency she required, I spent a great deal of my time caring for my brothers, cleaning and cooking.


Books were my safe haven.  I would spend hours sitting on our back porch reading and dreaming that I was living the lives of all the characters in these books.  I read every Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mystery, but quickly outgrew the draw of the young adult series.


Agatha Christie became one of my all time favorites.  The Orient Express was the first one I read.  After that, I was hooked on mysteries forever.  Her writing style took me a bit to get use to, but once I hit the forth chapter, I was rocking.


After reading all of her stories, I scoured the library for every mystery I could find.  Still to this day, I look for the mental stimulation and puzzles that Agatha Christie offered me during a time of need.


It hurts my heart when I hear a young person state that they hate to read.  I recall how I was never bored, never without something to do and always had a friend hidden between the pages of the current book I was reading.


I have a cousin whose son told me he does not like to read.  So I created a reading challenge.  I find a book I think will intrigue him, read it, mail it to him and then he must send me daily messages about where he is in the book and what the book is about.  We have some awesome conversations.  It is funny, he still tells me he does not like to read, but gets very excited when we talk about the book he is currently reading.



We have shared The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, the Eragon series by Christopher Paolini, and the Theodore Boone series by John Grisham.  I have enjoyed each of these and my cousin has been very involved in the discussions.





I may not instill a deep love of reading in him, but I feel I am instilling the appreciation of a good story.


I hope that each of you get to share a love of reading with a young person.  There really is no better accomplishment!

Book Lover’s Week – A Life Filled with Books

Monday, August 6th, 2012

by reacherfan1909

Seems like a simple thing, just read every day.  Not just the internet, or a newspaper- a book.  A habit formed young and never broken.  I grew up with two parents that read, so having books around was natural.  Dad read mostly sporting magazines and the occasional non-fiction book.  Mom was the mystery fan.  Earl Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason didn’t just exist on TV, but between the pages of books.  The very first book I remember was Donald Duck and the Witch.  I made my parents read me that book every night – and I mean EVERY night.  I had it memorized, so they didn’t dare skip a page.  (They tried!)



So I asked my older brother what book – not the little kids books, but a REAL book, he remembers first reading.  He vaguely recalled working away at the Hardy Boys, books on dinosaurs and such, but the first real books he remembers were Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe.  For my sister-in law it’s The Happy Hollister’s at Pony Hill Farm (it had a PONY on the cover!) and Ken Ward in the Jungle, and then, like me, she was reading Nancy Drew.  I still remember Mom proudly presenting me with The Secret of the Old Clock – and another generation of mystery fans was born.  I moved on to Edgar Rice Borroughs’ John Carter of Mars series, while my brother went to Tarzan and his Pellucidar series.  But we’d also grown addicted to TV series like Maverick, Bourbon Street Beat, 77 Sunset Strip, and a dozen other ‘must see’ shows.


That’s when it happened.  The end of our world as we knew it!  The TV died.  It was a tragedy of such enormity and epic proportions, it was unthinkable.  That’s why we owned TV tables!!!!!!!  No 1940’s B mysteries on Saturday afternoon.  Worse, no watching Star Trek, a series all my classmates talked about constantly!  Our parents united, there would be no new TV.  We should go out and play or read.


Wait a minute, since when was reading an issue?  Sending us to our rooms as punishment was a waste of time.  We had books.  I’d read all of Agatha Christie by the 6th grade, when I also discovered ancient history and archeology thanks to Leonard Cottrell and The Lost Pharaohs, The Bull of Minos, and The Warrior Pharaohs.  As alarming as it seems today, I actually READ Gods, Graves, and Scholars by C. W. Ceram in 7th grade – which cemented an interest in ancient Egyptian history and archaeology, particularly the 18th and 19th Dynasties.  My brother began collecting ancient Greek and Roman coins and reading the history surrounding them.


Still with no TV. So one summer, at the ripe old age of 13, I decided to try my hand at cooking.  Since Mom thought cakes were born in a box with the Duncan Hines label and Bisquick quick breads were advanced cooking, it became me and books in the kitchen.  Mom headed for the sofa and another Perry Mason book rarely to be seen in the kitchen again.  I added a lot of cookbooks to my shelves.


We went 2 years or more with no TV in the house, as unthinkable then as it is now.  It did serve a purpose.  Our TV addiction broken, my brother and I have been reading books our whole lives.  Books were Christmas and birthday gifts.   I got A Treasury of Great Recipes by Mary and Vincent Price (by my own request) for a gift one year and many books on Egyptian history and archeology.   And all these years later, every Christmas, we still exchange books.



When he bought his modest 1827 house in the eastern Berkshires, the first thing my brother did was build custom cabinets in the living room with storage below for his TV and the top 2/3rds bookshelves.  He actually collected and re-read all of the Hardy Boys, buying the books published in the 50’s and 60’s so the stories would not be updated.  (Ebay can be a wonderful place)   And like our mother, he’s a big fan of American history – he better be given where he lives!   King Phillip’s War by Eric B Schlutz served as a guide to creating a scenic and historic drive through the Connecticut River Valley and Berkshires for his brass age car group (cars built before 1915 and driven on tours).


For many years I kept a lending library at work in a spare bookcase right outside my office.  Anyone could borrow or take books and return them or add their own.  Twice a year I’d clear the shelves and give the books to a veteran’s home.  But when I left corporate America to work for myself, I quickly had the books piling up despite my best efforts at giving them away by the case to neighbors.  Still I have too many books.  Despite two huge floor to ceiling bookshelves packed solid with books, it’s beginning to look like some demented book hoarder lives here.  Throwing away books, unless damaged beyond use, is simply not in my genes.


A house without books looks barren to me.  If I were rich, it wouldn’t be a media room I’d add, it would be a library.  Stacks of books are everywhere around me, some read and ready to ship out in swaps.  Some collecting for shipping to my brother and sister-in-law.  And way too many on Mt TBR.  Favorite re-reads sit on my nightstands.


Books have brought more than knowledge and entertainment in my life, they lead to travel to see things for myself.  My love of English and Egyptian lead me England and Scotland and a few years later to Egypt, Greece, and Turkey – a trip that remains a highlight of all my travels in the world.  When I walk through museums, I know more about what I’m seeing and where it fits in history.  When I visited new countries, I read up on them and their history and customs.  They set us dreaming, or maybe just teach why you need to sautéed onion and garlic, or how to prepare a garden for planting or build a stacked stone wall.  Practical or fantasy, they’re treasures and a love of reading is a great gift to give your kids – even if they do have hysterics about being, “THE ONLY KIDS WHO DON’T SEE STAR TREK!”


But favorite books, the ones we read again and again, and great books aren’t always the same thing.  Lists of favorites that are also great reads are so hard to cull to a few, but here are some of mine:

The Daughter of Time
by Josephine Tey




Death from a Top Hat, Footprints on the Ceiling, The Headless Lady, No Coffin for the Corpse by Clayton Rawson


The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
by Agatha Christie


The Maltese Falcon
by Dashiell Hammett



The Monkey’s Raincoat, Stalking the Angel, Lullaby Town, The Watchman by Robert Crais


The Reason Why: The Story of the Fatal Charge of the Light Brigade by Cecil Woodham-Smith


Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser


Ringworld by Larry Niven



One for the Money, Two for the Dough, Three to get Deadly, Four to Score, High Five, Seven Up by Janet Evanovich



And too many more to name





Book Lover’s Day Week

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

by Cheryl G. (Poncer)

As a child, with a not too happy existence, books were a lifeline to a more gentle peaceful reality for me. The first chapter book I remember falling in love with, Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life, is a book I credit with allowing me to know that pain and loneliness was not something that was exclusive to me. (An eye opening lesson for a child, one I try to remember daily) Helen and Anne Sullivan became my heroes, my examples and my friends. I read everything by Helen Keller that I could get my hands on. The poor school librarian, I hope I thanked her enough for all the extra work I put her through.


As teenager, and as a young adult, books remained one of the few constants in my life. There was always book in the back pocket of my jeans. I still love a mass market size book. They are thoroughly transportable, easy to hold, and if the pages get ruffled or the cover gets bent, it isn’t the end of world. Hardcover books are beautiful, and great for bookshelves but give me a mass market paperback any day.


I once dated a guy who did not understand the importance of books. (IMAGINE THAT! It makes me shudder to this day!) We were coming back from dinner in NYC and waiting for a subway train rather late one evening. I, of course, pulled out the book I was reading at the time. I mean, what else do you do when you are waiting for a train on a subway platform? I guess he got a bit tired of being ignored and he took the book from my hand and tossed it down on the tracks! ON THE TRACKS! In my first moment of horror, I did consider jumping down there to get it. How was I going to live without knowing how the book ended? I was completely and utterly stunned. This guy had just murdered my book. And here it was nearly midnight, where could I possibly get another copy so I could read the book while falling asleep when I got home? Needless to say, even though he may have been considered quite a catch, I never saw the guy again. But the story does have a happy ending. The next day I purchased another copy of the book and finished reading it on the way home from the bookstore.


Since then, I have met many people who have commented that I “have a lot of books”, “so many books” and some who have said, “too many books”. Um, there is no such thing as too many books.


When I found PaperBackSwap I found many people who embraced this philosphy. It was like coming home. Finally, folks who understood! And books galore! More books than I could ever imagine, and all there for the price of a credit.  I was, and still am in HEAVEN. BOOK HEAVEN!


I currently have two 6 foot bookshelves full to capacity, two 4 foot bookshelves also brimming, a pile of books 2 feet high on an end table and a new pile growing on top of my file cabinet. And maybe, just maybe, I now have a lot of books. But I figure if I read one a day and live to be 117 years and 7 months old, I can read all the ones that are here waiting for me! Have I mentioned that I love books?


Thank you Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan for a gift that has enriched my life!





August 9th is Book Lover’s Day.  As a self respecting, life-long book lover, I feel 1 day is just not a sufficient period of time to celebrate books. So this week is hereby declared Book Lover’s Week!



Member Memories – Our Love of Books

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

By Cyn C. (Cyn-Sama)

My mother is at the heart of most of my book memories.  She never censored what I read, believing that I would either gloss over the portions I didn’t understand, or give up and go find a book that was suited to me.

The memory that stands out the most is of my mother loaning me her copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn the summer before I went into sixth grade, just to shut me up for a little while, because I was constantly bugging her because I was bored.

I adored the book.  I felt like I was transported to turn of the century Brooklyn, a place miles away from my quiet suburban neighborhood in Coventry, Rhode Island.

Much like my experience in reading the Little House on the Prairie books, I wanted to experience everything that the characters experienced.  When Francie stated she would rather buy a potato over an apple, because the flesh of the potato had a similar texture, and was cheaper than an apple (so she could buy more candy), I just had to grab a raw potato, and carve out a hunk of it to see if the texture was really that similar (and, yes.  It is).

Even now, years later, when I’m peeling potatoes, I’ll steal a piece to remind myself of how similar it is in texture to an apple, and think back on the book.

I was so enamored with this book, that I read it numerous times over the summer, and even brought it with me to school when I started sixth grade.  My teacher was slightly horrified that my parents were letting me read the book.

Looking back, I guess I can understand his shock.  I mean, a father dying of alcoholism, hanging condoms out a window, unrelenting poverty…  It’s pretty heavy stuff even as an adult, but when I was a child, I experienced the same confusion that the children in the story did.

I was thinking about it last night, especially the chapter when Francie and her brother end up amusing themselves by hanging the condoms out the window.  In the book, they were confused by the horror and the shock at the adults, and when I was reading it as a 10 year old, I was confused as to why the adults were so horrified.

Re-reading it again, when I was older clued me into as to what exactly they were dangling out the window.

It’s the perfect example of a book that grows up with you.  Reading it as a youth, the age of the characters is a completely different experience as reading it as an adult.


When I hit Jr. High, my mother lent me her torn and tattered copies of Welcome to the Monkey House by Kurt Vonngut,
and The World According to Garp by John Irving.  Both of which were books that I had to grow into.




Then, in High School, she hit me with the big whammy, The Handmaids Tale, by Margaret Atwood.  These three books completely changed how I viewed the world, and how I viewed sexuality and feminism.
Before The Handmaids Tale, I had never given much thought to feminism; I just thought that equality was something that would come naturally in society.
After reading these books, I got angry.  Very angry.
I’m sure it’s the same anger my mom felt as she was fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment.


This was supposed to be a short bit of babbling about books I loved to read growing up, but it’s kind of morphed into a love note to my mother, for making me the free thinking, angry, woman I am today.

Mom.  Thanks.  I still love sharing books with you.  Discussing books is one of the things that have kept us close.  Never stop sharing them with me.