Category Archives: Reading
Two weeks ago, my mother and sister visited Ireland. Before they left, they asked what type of souvenirs I’d like them to bring back for me. I didn’t have to think about it long before I decided exactly what I wanted. I’m sure you may even be able to guess . . .
I asked for them to bring me books. Used books from a little Irish book store tucked away somewhere. On further thought I asked my mom to stop alongside a beautiful country road in Ireland and pick wild flowers, and to press them into the pages of the book she got for me. Not an expensive gift. Not a difficult gift to get. But I was ecstatic at the mere thought of it.
I’m sure most of you read the rambling and rather passionate thoughts in my last blog post about why I love paperbacks (and hardbacks, of course!) so very much. As my mom and sister handed me my gifts, it hit me once again just why I love physical books as I do.
From a library sale in Carlow, Ireland, to secondhand bookstores in Newry, Cahir and Dublin, my dear little Irish books are full of worn pages, penciled-in notes, unglued binding, age spots, wildflowers, a yellowed bus pass that someone must once have used for a bookmark, and, in short, more history and food for imagination than you could get into an infinite number of eBooks.
Are you ready for some serious book-love pictures?! Meet my new-old books:
All my books have history. Some of that history I’ll never know about – I can only imagine where the many books I own have been, what shelf they have rested on, whose eyes have smiled or cried or even drowsed while reading them.
These books from Ireland are no different, really. They sat on a shelf somewhere, or maybe amid a stack of other books, perhaps in a household, perhaps in a bookstore or library. They passed from hand to hand, home to home, heart to heart, just as many books do.
It’s a connection between myself and someone far away. It’s a cord woven between me and a stranger whom I’ll never meet. What a mysterious, lovely thing. My fingers touch where their fingers have touched. I’ll read the very words that someone far away once read. Perhaps I’ll even be touched by those words in the same manner as the one who read them before me.
What history, real or imagined, do your own hand-me-down books have?
A few weeks ago I was in line at Nebraska Furniture Mart, preparing to purchase a book.
The man behind me in line laughed and said, “You don’t see people doing that much anymore.”
I said, “What? You mean buying a book at a furniture store? I know – kinda strange, huh?”
“No,” he said. “I mean buying a book . . . at all. People just don’t do it.”
I just smiled. “Well, I certainly do.”
“So you don’t read eBooks?”
“Not much. I’m rather stubbornly rebelling against the eBook world. I’ll always stick to my paperbacks first and foremost.”
The man just grinned at me and shook his head . . . then kept smiling and shaking his head until I had checked out and walked away. That’s what he did. I’m not exaggerating.
Now, maybe people who live in Nebraska just don’t read as much as people from my State of Missouri, but I doubt it. It could be that this man just has a skewed idea of the bookish world and readers in general . . . I sure hope so!
Whatever the case, it made me ask myself – why do I cling so desperately to my paper-and-ink books? After all, it’s not nearly as convenient to tote around books like Middlemarch or Mansfield Park than it is to simply click it on my tablet and start reading. And let’s not even talk about the difference between having 3,000 books uploaded to your e-reader . . . versus owning 3,000 paper and hardback books that are slowly pushing you out of your own home . . . ahem, not that I have that problem.
Why do I put up with it? What is the superhuman pull of paper and ink and, let’s face it, possibly even spine glue and dust jackets? Because really for me, it is a superhuman pull.
MEMORIES . . .
Nothing has such an insistent tug as childhood memories. At least, not for me. The stories I experienced, the places I journeyed to through them, the places I sat while reading them, the walks home from the library with arms-to-chin piles of books, the feel of my childish hands on a book’s hard spine . . . those memories will be with me for most of my life, I imagine. And they’re incredibly strong, deeply happy memories. Maybe the coming generation will have those memories with their Kindles, too . . . but somehow I just can’t imagine the dearness of those memories ever being quite the same.
SENSES . . .
Ok, this is a big one for me.
A few days ago I finished a chapter of the book I’m currently reading and my husband looked at me and said, “Why do you look at your book like that every time you stop reading?”
“Umm . . . what do you mean? All I did was shut it and put it down.”
“Nope. Every time you get done reading you close your book and give it a strange look. Every single time. It’s kinda weird.”
“I do?” And then I believe I blushed. This is a man I’ve been married to for 12 years. I can’t remember ever blushing in front of him for, well, anything. But this felt . . . strangely personal. Because the moment he pointed it out, I realized it was true, although I’d never given it a moment’s thought before then.
Apparently I get a little doe-eyed with my books. So what? I bet lots of people do. Right . . .?
That beautiful sound paper makes when I flip pages all at once, or the sound when I let a single page slide through my fingers. The fresh scent of new paper, the sharp smell of ink, even the nose-tickling mustiness of an old, dusty book from my Grandma’s shelf. The very sight of a book or, better yet, a whole shelf of books, their motley, mismatched spines like a beacon to something deep within me. The feel of a book’s squared edges against my palm, its heaviness in my hands as I take it from a shelf.
You know, when I first read The Chronicles of Narnia, the whole box set of them that I owned had a distinct scent to the pages. Who knows what caused it – I imagine something as simple as the combination of ink and paper the publisher used. But whatever it was – to this day when I smell the pages of another book with that same scent, I am instantly transported straight back to my childhood bedroom, with Narnia swirling all around me. I even sometimes feel the ghostly twinge of the crick I got in my neck from burying myself in those books for such long periods of time.
“O, there is lovely to feel a book, a good book, firm in the hand, for its fatness holds rich promise, and you are hot inside to think of good hours to come.” – Richard Llewellyn
SLOWING DOWN . . .
Those first two reasons are good enough, for me, that a third one wouldn’t even be necessary. But I’ve noticed that, as I get older, I’ve dug my heels in and become quite old-fashionedly stubborn about my books. After some thought, I believe it has to do with my need for control in a world that moves too quickly and demands too much.
A book in my hand represents a slowing down of life, a focusing of my attention to what is in front of me. By picking up a book I feel as if I’m pulling myself out of the tumult of the e-world (or even, sometimes, the world in general) and giving it an emphatic “no.”
STORIES ARE STORIES
Yet in the end, a book’s truest pleasure comes from the words that are written – not the object from which you read them. Stories – good stories – will always be important in their own right, whether told by mouth, written on papyrus, scrawled with crayons on construction paper (those are the ones my son writes for me!), printed with ink on paper, or published on an electronic device.
There is no right or wrong here. Stories are stories and I will always, always love a well-told one.
It’s just that I’ll enjoy it much more if it’s on paper 🙂
Tell me, do you have strong feelings about the particular form a book takes?
Once upon a time, there was an author who was very thankful for all the support she had received from her readers and reviewers. As grateful as she was, she knew that “thank you,” and lots of smiles (which no one saw anyway) could only go so far….
So she decided to give something away … no, make that two somethings. They weren’t much, but they at least said “thank you” in less of a virtual way, and in a bit more of a physical way.
Here’s the first something:
Because who in the world can’t use an Amazon gift card??!!
And here’s the second something:
Make no mistake, this game has more to it than an ordinary memory game. You can become an author, publisher or editor (um, yes!), you can create your own personal library, and you can challenge other players to a literary duel. Too much bookish fun to handle, really! If you want to travel to Missouri, I’ll even play it with you ….
Here’s the Giveaway Info
WHO QUALIFIES? Those who have read The Word Changers and posted a review of it on Amazon.
WHEN DOES THE GIVEAWAY END? It will run from today until Tuesday, November 25th (and yes, I changed the original dates I had decided on because I didn’t want it to run through Thanksgiving!).
HOW DO YOU ENTER? Simply e-mail me with the link to your Amazon review of The Word Changers, (ashleew(at)zoho(dot)com), or comment with the review link below.
HOW WILL YOU KNOW IF YOU WON? I will announce the two winners here on my blog first thing on November 26th (that’s a Wednesday, and yes, it’s the day before Thanksgiving!).
Perhaps you are in the middle of reading The Word Changers, or maybe you haven’t got a chance to start it at all yet … No fear! You have a week to finish it, write your Amazon review, and be eligible for this giveaway!
I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate it, readers and reviewers, for your taking the time from reading books whose authors you have at least heard of … and agreeing to read and review mine instead! 😉
Most of you probably know the importance of getting reviews for your own book, or leaving reviews for others’ books. They help potential buyers find a book to begin with, and then help them to decide whether or not it’s the book for them. Real, honest opinions from real, honest readers – for me, at least – count far more than even the book’s blurb or cover.
The Word Changers now has 55 reviews on Amazon (thanks to 55 very awesome readers!). When it reaches 60 I am going to be doing a giveaway. For what, you ask? Well, there will be an Amazon gift card involved, and something bookish and creative which I haven’t yet made a final decision on. But trust me, it will be lovely, and you will want it 😉
So my request for you is this: If you have read The Word Changers but haven’t yet left an Amazon review, hop over to their site and write one! And if you’ve been wanting to read The Word Changers but haven’t got around to it yet, get your own copy over at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords (see sidebar for links), and then leave a review. It’s just $2.99 right now in eBook (rather than its original $3.99).
If you know a friend who may like to read it, lend her your e-copy, or buy her a copy as an early Christmas present … and then ask her to leave a review as well! The more the merrier!
This opportunity will be for Amazon reviewers ONLY … and we only need 5 more reviews for me to start the giveaway! Yay! So get your review in so you can enter your name when the giveaway begins.
Ok, my shameless requests for you to read and review my book are over. But I will have you know they are just a front for what I truly want to do: THROW A GIVEAWAY! 😀
Have a great weekend, a fun Halloween … and happy reading!
Books can be bliss. Books can be a wonderful escape. Books can be deadly dangerous.
I’m not sure about you, but I’m addicted to books. I know of many people who are afflicted by this madness as well. It’s not really curable, and I’ve never been quite clear on whether that’s because it’s impossible, or just the fact that people simply don’t want to be cured of it.
Books have blessed me with countless hours of laughter, happiness, heart-thumping excitement and soul-wrenching sorrow. They have given me what I consider to be some of the richest times of enjoyment in my life.
So why are they so dangerous?
For someone like me who is immersed in books, it is easy to lose your way. The characters within them can become more real than the people in your life. The adventures in them can make your own life dull in comparison. The satisfaction of happy endings can distort your real-life expectations.
Don’t get me wrong. Books offer us much. New worlds, ideas, emotions and thoughts. The epic romance, the love at first sight, the evil that is always punished, the bad guy who is always caught, the ending that is always happy. I don’t blame you for wanting that. I want that. And it’s not something we’ll find very often, if at all, outside the covers of a book.
And this is where the danger lies.
Books teach us to expect these things. Books teach us not to settle, not to give in, until we have found these things. They promise that things like true love and happy endings are always attainable, if we could only find the right person, if we were only in the right circumstance, if we were only …. If only …. If ….
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor 10:3-5)
If I get annoyed with my husband because he doesn’t give me the deep and mysterious affection that Mr. Rochester gave Jane Eyre, or because he doesn’t change for me as Mr. Darcy did for Elizabeth, that’s no one’s fault but my own. It’s wrong for me to have those thoughts, the thoughts that books put into my head, the ones that I allow to control my expectations of real-life people.
Admit it, it’s a little bit funny, isn’t it? To know that a book can change the invisible pathways of my mind? To know that I want my husband to be just a bit more like Mr. Rochester? To admit that my life frustrates me and makes me want to cry like a child who hasn’t got her way when things don’t go right?
I think Satan must think it’s funny, too, watching as I’m separated from God’s plan for me. Watching as I grow bitter with life and friends and the people I’m supposed to be showing God’s love, all because I want someone to sweep me off my feet, or because my life is not the adventure I’d like it to be, or because I must watch as someone I’m close to suffers an ending that is anything but happy.
Books. Are they right or wrong to teach us these things? Right or wrong to make us long for … more?
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
Books. Dangerous or not? Do they lead us to neglect the springs of life from our own hearts, and make us instead focus our eyes on the imaginary, the unattainable?
Books, when all is said and done, don’t control your mind. Media doesn’t control you mind. Your mother, your father, your spouse, your friends—they don’t control it either. Only you, and only God. And even God will not force His way in unless you invite Him. So it’s your choice, then. Just as God intended.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
Trust in the Lord … that’s the key, isn’t it? Keep your eyes on Him. Read books, enjoy books, love books … but keep your eyes on God and His Kingdom.
This world isn’t likely to offer you the epic romances you read about. It’s certainly not going to solve every crime and punish every criminal. And ask anyone … happily-ever-afters are but a myth.
We live in a world of sin and darkness.
But God is not vanquished by sin, and His light is not to be put out. What we look for in books and fail to find in real life—we may find in Him.
God gives us the fullest, most all-consuming love. He pursues us with relentless passion and gentle steadfastness. Isn’t that just what any true romantic longs for in the end?
God is the ultimate judge. Bad guys go free on earth too many times. But don’t believe for a moment that means their sins will go unpunished.
God is the creator of mystery, and therefore the solver of it. We should revel in His creation, even the mysteries of it, and look forward to one day having Him explain them to us.
Lastly, God is the maker of happy endings. Some of them do happen here on earth—some of them even rival the best books we’ve ever read. But nothing compares to the Final Happy Ending that we as Christians have to look forward to. Not a single book on earth can hold a candle to that.
All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before. (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle)
This world is not our home. It is not where we belong. Books tell us of other worlds—let us not forget the one we are in, nor the one we are going to. Books give us happiness—let us not forget where our eternal happiness lies. Books tell us of adventures and heroes—let us not forget that the life God gave us is the greatest adventure of all, and that the only hero we need is our Savior, the maker of the truest Happy Ending.
A couple of weeks ago I went to my local library and saw, for the first time ever, my own book on the library shelf! And not just one copy … two! I was pretty excited, as you can well imagine!
When I visited my alumni college (later that same day, as it happens), an old friend I was speaking with there informed me that he had seen my book for sale in the college bookstore … on display, on the front counter! I’m only a little ashamed to say that I squealed and immediately drug my husband and son to the bookstore to see it. Wouldn’t you have?!
Having my book for sale in a book store is exciting, but I’ve got to say that seeing my book on the shelf of a library, with the potential to go through the hands of dozens, possibly hundreds of readers … now that’s really a dream come true. Libraries have always meant so much to me, the scent of papers and ink, the whisper of pages being turned, the hum of silence, the solid walls of books all around. Paradise, really. What a privilege for my book to now have a home in one of my favorite places on the planet!
Many of you have read The Word Changers already, and a lot of you who haven’t have said you’d like to one day. If you haven’t had the chance yet, have you considered submitting a request to your own local library to purchase a copy? I’ve done that many times in the past for books that I’ve considered reading, but was on the fence about forking my own money out to buy. And 9 times out of 10, my library goes on to purchase the requested copy.
Most of the time you only need the requested book’s title, author, and year published (my library usually won’t purchase something that has a publish date of more than a year ago). But if you decide to put in a request for The Word Changers, and your library requires more information, click here 🙂
I can’t tell you the pleasure and honor I’d feel knowing my book was on the shelves of libraries across the United States, or even in other countries! What a thrill!
And just for fun, here are some great library quotes:
HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!!
In books, characters can stumble into other worlds in many different ways. Sometimes it’s as simple as walking through a door or crossing a bridge. Other times it’s as unexpected as the door of a musty old wardrobe, falling down a rabbit hole, or flying out your window toward the second star on the right, straight on ‘til morning …
But those are fictional portals leading to fictional worlds.
Growing up I discovered a real-life portal.
Any book. Every book. Each one takes you to a different place. Each one has something different to show you, something new to reveal. It’s a never-ending adventure, a book. A rousing and irresistible adventure.
Is it any wonder that I grew up daydreaming how it would feel to fall straight into a book? Does it come as a surprise that my own debut novel features just such a theme?
Posy, my main character, is a 15-year-old girl who is much like I used to be at that age. Lacking in confidence, the child of a broken home, older than her years in some ways, and younger than them in other ways. In short, she is made up of the perfect ingredients to find a sanctuary in books. An escape from the world around her.
But books, as we know, can take us places. Books can draw us in, and then both excite and wound us in the worst and best of ways. And the fairy tale Posy wanders into takes her to a world in turmoil. The very characters themselves are threatening to rebel against their Plot. They have forgotten who their Author wrote them to be … they have forgotten their Author altogether, in fact.
That’s a recipe for trouble. And Posy’s journey is a long and difficult one.
As I wrote the book, I had to ask myself some questions:
What would happen if you actually stepped into a book and met its characters?
Would those characters be aware that they were characters following a Plot that controlled their every word and move?
Would they be capable of making their own decisions or – as in The Word Changers – actually rebelling against their Author?
As much as I’ve always dreamed of literally getting lost in a book, what would it truly be like, and how would I react? In other words, what would be the dark side of such a fantasy …?
That’s what I asked myself. And that’s how The Word Changers began, in part.
A lot of answers came from those questions as I began to write this tale. Some of them were surprising. Some were exciting. Some were mysterious. To find out what those answers were, and how Posy’s story unfolds, read The Word Changers for yourself!
But let me ask you now, how would you answer those questions? If you were dropped into a book, stumbled through its pages and straight into its story, how would you feel? What would you do? … Would your actions send waves across the Plot, changing the story’s very words?
Don’t forget to click below and enter the giveaway going on this week. I’m giving away a signed paperback of The Word Changers, and a crocheted owl made by – you guessed it – me!