What books would you select for your bookshelf to be painted by artist Jane Mount? Her Ideal Bookshelf paintings (click link to see) featured in the New Yorker last August 11 inspired me to put twenty volumes together on one shelf and photograph them. Anne of Green Gables was a Christmas 1925 gift to my mother from her mother and the Gene Stratton-Porter book was my mother’s. C.S. Lewis’ Silver Chair is a stand-in for The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Most of these books belonged to my sister Mary and got passed down to me. Longfellow was a gift to my brother David and me from Cousin Paul in 1961. In sixth grade I had to memorize, “Under a spreading chestnut tree the village smithy stands….. The Beatrix Potter in French was from my sister (who signed it Marie) and presented it to me on my half birthday one January fourth. The Tiny Golden Book in The Naughty Little Guest by Dorothy Kunhardt. The Sunny Sulky Book opened two different directions with the good children and bad children stories. I loved Fairy Eat-It-All who came in the night with a spoon for a little boy whose eyes were bigger than his stomach, and he had to eat his way through a mound of food he had taken and not eaten. So here are my books from growing up, all on one shelf.
You tell me my old books smell
like a Goodwill bin.
Old dust and stick your nose in,
The weight of them
on the house’s foundation.
My hardwood floors sag.
You say I’m impaired
Society will evolve without me?
All I need in my life
is an e-reader not musty books.
I like the feel of them in my hand.
Turn them over, slip off a dustjacket.
See the author peer back at me.
The opening of the first page.
Or a slender bookmark to hold my place.
I’m sad they’re closing the store.
My list of reasons to read
from a page (or your preferred screen)–
maps, cooking, and signs,
travel or how to put something together
but for me
reason number one. Two and three.
There’s my mother’s voice
my dad’s, in certain volumes
reading to me-
the escape I mentioned before.
And enjoyment. Sheer enjoyment.
I’m sure you can think of more.