I own lots of books – too many I’m sure – and I have not read all of them. I sometimes wish I was one of those people who only owned books they had read or were in the process of reading; it would make life so much easier since I wouldn’t have a hundred books to cull through on my own shelves while still having libraries and Book Mooch to consider as well.
But the truth is I really love books. I love the way they feel in my hands: the softness and scratchiness of the paper, the way a new book sits a perfect triangle on my nightstand, the way a used book shows the reading of another in marks or small tears or the bend of the spine. I love the way books smell – the new ones give off a slightly chemical odor over the wood lurking beneath; the old ones smell (and sometimes taste) of cigarette smoke or perfume or just someone’s house, each different.
I love the way books really can lift me into another place, somewhere I haven’t been but long to be if just to witness. Or sometimes, somewhere I know well but with different eyes – mountain towns, universities, the interior of a car. For 30 years now, I have read, and I pray that I will never stop. Still, sometimes, I tear up thinking of all the books that are out there to read and how I will never be able to read them all, at least not on this earth. (I pray that reading is part of heaven; it has to be for me, for I like almost nothing better.)
So I don’t know how I could ever be that person who only owns books she has read. I crave their presence and promise too much to be without them around me. That is why reading book blogs and book reviews is so dangerous for me – it invites me to find even more books to have for myself. Then I start creating these crazy book wishlists – on Amazon, on Powells’, on Book Mooch. Sometimes I just gaze through them and see what I can find to get. Sometimes I add to them. Sometimes, rarely, I actually get something from one of them.
Here’s what’s on my Powell’s wishlist:
The Summer of the Great-Grandmother by Madeline L’Engle. L’Engle has long been one of my favorite writers because of her ability to believe that the impossible is possible. This book is the second in her set of journals written at her summer home, Crosswicks.
Coop by Michael Perry. My friend Cate turned me onto Perry’s wry humor and insights, so when I saw this book, I added it. I think it’s about chickens, but I”m not even sure.
Writers on Artists. Many writers, myself included, find art a powerful muse. I thought this book looked interesting.
On Histories and Stories by A. S. Byatt. I will read anything by this woman.
Letters to a Young Teacher by Jonathan Kozol. I find Kozol’s journalism fascinating, and I love books, movies, ideas meant to inspire teachers.
The Dialogic Imagination by Mikhail Bakhtin. In grad school, Bakhtin was one of the few theorists whose ideas really resonated with me. I love his articulation of heteroglossia, that we all speak in a variety of “languages” or voices.
Asian Journal of Thomas Merton. For years, Merton has been my touchstone for questions of faith. His ideas of the intersections between religions, on pacifism, and on spirituality have shaped much of my Christian walk.
This list is my short one. The one on Book Mooch is huge, and I have another spattering at Amazon. Then, I have lists in my desk and lists in my head. Someday, maybe all these books will reach my hands; or maybe they won’t and others will. But in the meantime, I keep dreaming myself through books, finding pieces of me and pieces of you and pieces of life in their scratchy, sweet pages.
Don’t forget to comment on my post about River Jordan’s Saints in Limbo for a chance to win the book.