Book Lust

One of the best things about blogs is that they remind us that we're part of a larger community. For a little over a year I've been finding and reading blogs that focus on books and reading. There are some that I think of as "professional" blogs -- Bookslut, say, or Identity Theory. But the ones I like best are those written by people whose business isn't books or publishing. These "bookbloggers" love books, reading, and words enough to take the time to write about them, and to do it well. They're the people who write about how they go about choosing the next book they'll read and the excitement of making the selection; the ones who go into a bookstore or library without a specific book in mind, just for the pleasure of perusing the shelves. They can't stop buying or borrowing books even though they don't have time to read them all. Some of them even read books about reading books (is BookGirl blushing?).

It's naive to think that these bloggers and I are kindred spirits, but I'm enough of a romantic to think that readers and book lovers do connect in some significant and fundamental way. (To those who would write BookGirl to say that she's wrong and thereby destroy her carefully nurtured illusion, she would prefer that you didn't.)

English is my second language. I have a vivid memory of my first grade classroom in the U.S. I received a mimeographed sheet with a series of illustrations and several words underneath each one. My classmates and I were told to circle the one word that best described the corresponding picture. At least I think that was our assignment. In any case, not knowing any English, I colored in the pictures and handed in my sheet. How I made it to second grade is still a mystery. Was it my proficiency in arithmetic? My good behavior? If so, the math skills diminished at a steady pace between grade school and college, and my behavior deteriorated once I learned enough English to speak to the student across the aisle.

My strongest memory of second grade is the reading class. There was a large box with color-coded tabs on the teacher's desk. Each tab corresponded to reading material that was appropriate to a specific reading level. By then I knew enough English to understand that the color-coded materials were used to assess the reading level of each student, who was then assigned to a peer reading group. Somehow, I managed to land in the top-level reading group by the end of the year.

At home I spoke the language of my native country, since my parents never learned to speak fluent English. But with their encouragement, and that of the teacher who helped me get my first library card, I became quite the library rat. I didn't get much guidance on reading material, though, so I was wonderfully, wildly, indiscriminate in my choices.

Other readers' backgrounds may be very different from mine (although I expect some are similar), but I like to think that we share an enthusiasm -- is it too much to call is a passion? -- that's difficult to explain if you haven't experienced it, but fairly simple to recognize in someone else if you have.

I guess it's not surprising that I'd take up book arts -- as in bookmaking -- and that I enjoy it as much as I do. And although I've been reading much much longer than I've been making books, I sense that there's an affinity among bookmakers similar to the one I've experienced among readers. I'm loving being part of another cool community that cares about books.


KHB said...

The making of books is such an amazing experience for bibliophiles like ourselves... when you love more than just the story - when the heft of the book, the smell of the pages, is also important - it's almost second nature to want to create that yourself. I have loved making books like almost nothing else I've ever done. Given a way to eat and pay the bills, I'd do nothing but read and make books!

(Sigh... I really want to make a book right now. But I'm so swamped...)

Clara said...

You're so right, KHB. As readers, it's not just the content, but the whole experience of the book that we love, so making books is the perfect complement. I'm only sorry I didn't find my way too book arts sooner, because when I took my first bookmaking class a little over two years ago, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

Riverlark said...

BG, I was going to ask if you'd read my favorite book on reading "Ex Libris" by Anne Fadiman. (You probably have!) I was checking the name of the book on Amazon and see she has a new book out! It's the best news of my day!!!!

Clara said...

RL,you're psychic. This morning I was writing what was going to be a post about the "familiar essay." The topic came to mind because I'd read a blurb about Anne Fadiman's new book. Yes, I loved Ex Libris. There's something about her writing that makes you want to sink into a plump chair and read for the duration.

By the way, I gave up on that post. Real life intruded, and I had to take my car to the shop for repairs.