For the Love of Books

bookworm1.jpg“I would be the most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mainly of having enough bookshelves.”

–Anna Quindlen

This quote is possibly the only thing columnist Anna Quindlen, and I would ever agree on, but on this one, we are definitely in sinc. Whenever we have looked for a new house, my eye has immediately moved to living room/family room flat wall space for bookshelves. Not enough bookshelf space is an immediate deal breaker.

My husband collects trumpets and trumpet bits, and I seem to collect books. I say “seem” because, for me, it’s a passive way of collecting. Every week that goes by, publishers send me books for possible shows, readers send me books, friends give me books, my mom loans me books and I bring books home from the library. Things can get wild and woolly really quickly in our house if there isn’t a periodic evaluation of what books go in the trash, (from publishers), which go on the children’s shelves, which go on my personal shelves, which go on my work shelf and which go on my “serious” bookshelf downstairs.

My college son has outgrown his bookshelf and is now going vertical on the top of his bedroom bookshelf. He has a stack 12 books high that he says he just has to get to soon. He, like his mother, inherited deep compassion for rejected books. A teacher at his college was throwing out a bunch of classic books and put up a “Take one, they’re free!” sign on a table. Well, guess who brought them home. “They looked so sad, mom, all by themselves. I’ll take care of them, really, mom…” Some people take in stray cats—we take in stray books.

My husband bought me a beautiful framed print of Carl Spitzweg’s painting above. It’s titled, “Der Buchworm”, (The Bookworm). Fortunately, he doesn’t give me a hard time about all the books. (And I don’t give him a hard time about all those C, B flat, G, and piccolo trumpets, along with the flugel horn, coronet, rotary…) Tom claims that the subject of the painting, an aged butler, enthralled with a book while dusting a vast bookcase, reminds him of me.  I am not sure if I should take that as a good thing or not!

I tell my young college son regularly that he needs to do as much reading now as he can. Life tends to get in the way when you’re out of school. I sometimes get so disgusted with myself for not getting to some of the classics I’ve meant to read. The other night I decided to remedy things and took The Annals of Imperial Rome by Tacitus up to bed. Never do that after a tiring day. After the gazillionth political assassination, suicide and beheading, (that would be about page 6) I threw it down in favor of Tales from a Village School, by Miss Read. It was an excellent antidote to all the intrigues of ancient Rome. After half an hour of light English wit, I was ready to sleep.

Being particularly sensitive, I have learned that some authors are best tackled with an eye to the season. Never read Turgenev, Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy in the dead of a Wisconsin January. It’s dark enough, believe me, without Imperial Russia. For me, it’s best to leave Russian authors for a blazing July afternoon in a lawn chair. When you tire of reading about starving Russian peasants and the vodka-swilling villains who persecute them, you can always look up and remember that it’s just a book, and that it’s July and the sun is shining.

My favorite books are the old devotional gems from Spurgeon, Andrew Murray, Horatius Bonar and a host of others. I have many old used copies, many of which contain notes and underlinings from long dead hands. One lady, named Elizabeth Farrell, owned my Andrew Murray book, Like Christ, back in 1891. In her beautiful script, she left notes regarding answered prayer with the names of those she had prayed would come to certain evangelistic meetings in London. The notes make the book even more special because it somehow connects me with another sister-in-Christ from so long ago, who is now with the Lord. She was another who wanted to be Like Christ.

A recent study revealed that a large number of Americans go a year without reading an entire book. The life of the mind has long been neglected in our hectic, pleasure-mad culture. The great ideas that built Western Civilization are being challenged as never before, but few today even understand what those ideas are. By filling our homes with good books on all kinds of interesting subjects, we stimulate intellectual curiosity in our children that will make them engaged learners all their lives. With the fear of the Lord at the forefront of their understanding, our children can learn to look at the fascinating world God made and see His Divine hand at work, in history, in science, in art, in music, and everywhere else.

16 thoughts on “For the Love of Books

  1. Marilyn B. says:

    Ingrid,

    This is *amazing*. I sent my daughter the link to your post. She loves books (actually we both do), and this expresses her heart! She is also college aged. I am grateful she loves reading.

    I’m just beginning to get back to it after years of rearing and homeschooling children; I’m joining my daughter in a 50-book challenge. I can’t imagine being among those who do not read at all.

    We struggle because my husband is not the least bit “bookish” and is always looking at the books asking “which of these can we get rid of?” I always tell him “books are not negotiable.”

    Thank you, I love that you shared this. I wish I were less exhausted. I might be able to think of something more profound to say if I hadn’t been running on so little sleep!

  2. Todd says:

    Ingrid, thank you for this site. Being 32 and just starting to fall in love with books makes me kind of envious of others bookshelves. Where is a good resource for free books? It is so true to read when you’re in college. With being married, three kids, two dogs, mortgage, etc etc reading can be the first to go. Thank you for letting your light shine before men. You have been an encouragement to me several times. Your love for Jesus encourages me somehow.

  3. Jillian says:

    Ah Ingrid, I so agree with you about reading and reading the classics. It is hard to find time, but it is worth while reading. I need more book cases too. I keep buying books on eBay or second hand shops. My whole family love books. Whenever we travel and vist a town, we always check out the bookshops!

  4. Donna says:

    Ahhhh. My favorite wallpaper is ceiling-to-floor books.

    My oldest book is from 1811. Too bad it’s in German and I can’t read it. 🙂

    However, I have other books from the 1800’s in English and what a difference in literary quality there is in those books from many of today’s.

    The foul language used in public (no matter if children are present, though sometimes children are the ones swearing) illustrates the move from a more thoughtful literary-influenced society to an in-your-face media-influenced society.

    I’m not associated with Lamplighter Publishing, but they re-publish children’s books from the 1800’s. Mark Hamby, the publisher, had his life changed when someone sent him a stack of Christian books to read. From his site: “It has been said that you will be the same five years from now as you are today, except for the people you meet and the books you read! Until the age of 22, even while administrating a Christian school, Mark Hamby had never read a book. In fact, he despised both school and reading. Yet God had a plan for his life; He began to rebuild this empty vessel through the influence of some of the most unique literature ever written. Mark discovered that inspiring literature that modeled Christ-like character was the catalyst that awakens a child’s drive to become all that God intended.” http://www.lamplighterpublishing.com/

  5. Wendy West says:

    Ingrid:
    I too enjoyed this post and am glad to know that there are others out there who are bibliophiles! I live in a fairly small apartment with two dogs and a disproportionate number of books and bookcases. I dread the day I have to move….!

    There is something about the written word that engages the mind and the spirit in a manner that nothing else can. Afterall God gave us His Word to read as His chosen means of communicating to us. God Bless, Wendy

  6. Lisa K says:

    I too love books and have all my life! I despair at the trash that is pushed by Oprah and others (I have women friends who only read what Oprah recommends!)
    I love well-researched historical fiction and it’s getting harder to find. I tend to like older books because of this.
    For Todd – the public library is great resource if you live in a large city. I am lucky enough to live in Chicago which has several libraries so if my local library doesn’t have a particular book, chances are they can get it from one of the bigger ones.
    As for other inexpensive resources – garage sales, resale stores and the internet are great.
    I sell out of print books on ebay and love selling uplifting books, with old childrens books being a favorite. Many people have nostalgia for their childhood and cherish that long lost book.

  7. Marcia says:

    Amen. A woman after my own heart. I have such a hard time getting rid of books, though soon after my conversion I found a lot of fluff and heresy to toss into the bin. However, now I’m filling the shelves with good (preferably old) copies of Puritan writers, Spurgeon gems, and continuing to add to my library of books on science, history, architecture (my occupation), weather and photography (my hobbies) in hopes that one days I will teach little minds to love truth and to understand God’s world in order to subdue it, as he commanded us to, in the fear and delight of Him and His commandments.

    I recently bought another huge bookshelf for the living room as I could not bear to sell another book. And when I looked at buying a house recently, I was mostly concerned that the existing pier and beam foundation may NOT be suitable (without reinforcing, of course) for the weight of a small library in the living room. I am so thankful for the encouragement to continue to add to the existing collection.

  8. Carol Blair says:

    Lisa (and anyone else who lives in or near Chicago)–

    I lived in the middle of Chicago for 4 years, and the highlight of each year for me was the Newberry Library used book sale–held the last weekend of July. 100,000 used books! Most of them $2 or less! I would walk home with full tote bags slung over each shoulder. People come from all over the Midwest, and each day, the line forms an hour before the doors open and stretches around the block. It was wonderful, and how I miss it.

  9. Lisa K says:

    Yes Newberry is a wonderful sale. This year a friend suggested I take public transportation, since parking is expensive and sometimes not even available there. I even skipped a few years because of the parking situation – I am so mad at myself about that!
    There seem to be so few real book lovers left. I have a niece who loves the same type of fiction (Dickens, etc.) as I do – we always suggest good books to each other. We both recently started reading a recent fiction book “continuing” the story of Tiny Tim from a Christmas Carol and we both put the book down with a few pages because of the vulgar language and images! So disappointing. Why is it the authors of days gone by were able to communicate so vividly without resorting to vulgarity?!

  10. Debra says:

    I love collecting Bibles. I find it very hard to walk passed one at a resale shop or Goodwill.
    It breaks my heart to see them cast aside and not used.
    The most valuable information in the world is in a Bible.
    Of course most put the Savior on the shelf and ignore Him.
    Never bothering to learn His word.
    Never learning about how much He loves His bride.
    What a shameful waste.

  11. Lisa K says:

    Last year at my younger son’s grade school we organized a used book sale and unfortunately some of the donations included VERY worn Bibles (so worn they were literally falling apart). Along with several other very worn books we had discarded them in a bin. Every single person that walked by took out the Bibles and were horrified – until that is they realized how worn they were. I found this very interesting since my son attends a public school! Never underestimate the high regard people in this country have for the Bible.
    A question: what is the proper way to dispose of a very worn Bible?

  12. Debra says:

    Lisa,

    Perhaps if some of the pages were still in good shape they could be arranged in a photo frame or something.
    I don’t mean for any monetary gain. Perhaps as a gift to a person who really is a Christian and can appreciate the word. I don’t mean anything that would cheapen it, but something that puts God’s word front and center.
    Anybody else have some ideas.

  13. Mrs. U says:

    Aha!! I should have read this post first!!!

    I whole heartedly agree with you. Not only do I encourage my children to read, but I think it is highly important to demonstrate this love in front of them.

    Reading… what a joy! You can “visit” places you’ve never been. You can “meet” people that you’ll never meet in real life. There is SO much to be learned- and it is all in books!!

    His,
    Mrs. U

  14. Lisa K says:

    Debra, that’s a lovely idea! Now I feel terrible we didn’t save those Bible pages.
    Your idea also made me think of my niece who makes jewelry out of vintage/antique objects (keys, buttons etc.). She loves old books and has found way to incorporate bits of text in lockets and bracelets. Bible text would also be a perfect fit with this.

  15. Carol Blair says:

    If someone’s Bible is falling apart, you can be pretty certain that his or her life isn’t.

  16. Les says:

    Thanks for the post Ingrid. I was looking at a new apartment today and wondered whether I would be able to take along my big black book case. I still don’t know if I’ll take it, I mean the apartment.

    Todd, check out the library. Most libraries accept donations and at some point they sell them off or even give them away. My local library has a once a week, lunchtime sale. I’ve found keepers at garage, moving and estate sales, food and clothing banks, roadside antique stores, Goodwill, and Salvation Army. Sometimes schools will sell off books by the pound. There is a lot of junk out there so you have to dig around. Don’t ever buy anything with mildew.
    Gutenburg.org posts free books online and there are numerous Christian online libraries. I do print some of these out. Also, I’ve had pastors who were willing to loan their books.

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