The Portable Magic of Books

“I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.”
― J.K. Rowling

books05I grew up with books. I think every room in our house but the dining room had bookshelves. The living room had built-ins that housed Children’s Classics (Tom Sawyer, Heidi, Alice in Wonderland, and more), The Encyclopaedia Brittanica (and its updating year books), and a wealth of other works of every kind. Our bedrooms had shelves for our favorites, and Dad even built paperback racks on the doors of Mom’s bedroom closet. In the den our parents shared, books spilled right off the shelves and decorated just about every surface.

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

Books1When we were small children, our Mom taught us to read, and read to us during the daytime. The Just So Stories of Kipling and Winnie the Pooh‘s stories and poems by A.A. Milne were favorites of mine, and I remember reading (and sometime reciting) them to my own children later. At our childhood bedtime, Dad read us a chapter each night from a classic children’s novel. He put his all into the voices in The Wind In the Willows, The Jungle Book, and Alice in Wonderland, and got a tear in his eye while reading Heidi.

Books were living things for us when we were growing up. I can remember getting my first library card, and driving weekly with my Mom to trade in one week’s treasures for the next. The written word is indeed a magical thing. My mother had a love of reading from her father, who read to her and took her to the library. We took a love of reading from our parents and grandparents who read to us and made sure books were always in great supply.

“Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.”
― George Bernard Shaw

books04So, our children have a love of reading from us, which they have passed on to our grandchildren, all of whom love books, even in the age of TV and online games. Both my girls take part in book clubs, and my son reads everything he can find time to read. For her baby shower, one of my girls asked that everyone bring a book, and she asked her dad to build a bookshelf for the baby’s room.

That same daughter had a childhood visual disability which required years of therapy to enable her to scan a page (as opposed to reading one word at a  time), but she always loved books, and enjoyed being read to (especially by her siblings) even when she was very tiny. In elementary school, her little eyes were often red from rubbing and strain, but she toughed it out and became a great reader. In fact, she’s the one who introduced me to the Kindle e-reader. She always has a book with her in one form or another now.

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
― C.S. Lewis
“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”
― Ernest Hemingway

books03Books are amiable companions – filling in quiet time, cheering us when we’re blue, bringing back wonderful memories, and providing opportunities to share with our children and grandchildren. They can teach us, test us, and open our imaginations. I can’t imagine a greater gift than teaching a child to read, then fostering a love of all the possibilities reading opens.

“Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of generations and nations.”
― Henry David ThoreauWalden


My Mom used bookplates, lovingly pasted in the front of every volume, with her name inscribed on them. Some said Ex Libris, Some just had drawings of books, and some had this quote from Ernst Morgan on them:

 “I enjoy sharing my books as I do my friends, asking only that you treat them well and see them safely home.”


Now, I’ve inherited many of those books, and I have to figure out where to keep them, to say nothing of when to read them. Biographies, historical fiction, essays, and more await me.  And they join a number of my own books I’d like to read again, as well as the out of sight (but not out of mind) library I’m slowly amassing on my Kindle. I really don’t want to part with any of them.

 “A book is a gift you can open again and again.”
― Garrison Keillor

books01Still, I fear that when we move from this house, some of the books lining our shelves will have to find new homes. There are three fairly full bookshelves in our guest room, one in my den (and two in my beloved’s), a rather large one in our exercise/TV room, and others in our living room and hallways. I now have three boxes of my Mom’s from my sister’s house, and I’m running out of surfaces to fill…

But no matter how many books I have, on paper or electronically, there will always be more magic out there to find and enjoy, and to share. You can really never have too many books.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
― Stephen KingOn Writing
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14 Responses to The Portable Magic of Books

  1. When we moved to Nicaragua, I had to donate most of my books. I really didn’t want to part with them, but it was silly to keep them in storage. I only saved the old first edition books, and those autographed by the authors. I came to Nicaragua with 3 children’s books in Spanish and an 1,800 book digital collection on my Kindle. From 3 children’s books, I started a mobile lending library for the elementary schools on the island. It amazed me that they live in a culture that excludes books. Hopefully, I will have 100 children’s books in Spanish to lend to 22 elementary schools. Their enthusiasm when I deliver the books is priceless.


  2. Charleen says:

    Great post. I love the baby shower idea.


    • That baby is in first grade and a great reader now! There are so many new series of children’s books since I had my kids – Magic Tree House, Capital Mysteries, and more. And a few years ago on a canoe trip, my oldest grandson introduced us to the Hunger Games series. I’m always fascinated by what my grandchildren are reading! Thanks so much for your visit. 😉


  3. i love yor post and everything about books. I can recognize my own feelings and my own story in yours. In Sweden we have a special day for letting books change hands…or homes. This year it is the 16 May, so it is soon now. The idea is to bring a book to your work or to school or on the bus or anywhere – and maybe change it for another one that is being carried there by someone else. You might find some new, human, friends too!

    My daughter leaves books on trains or in hostels where she has stayed – and maybe finds another book there to read. The problem is that your own amount of books never changes…


  4. Ruth Bailey says:

    My family loves books, too, which is why I chose a literature-based curriculum when I was home schooling my children. Our present home is smaller than our previous one and we made the decision to give away or donate a lot of books. With the exception of books that have sentimental value attached to the volume itself (some from my childhood, some from my father’s childhood, etc.), if we could pick up a copy at the local library, we didn’t need a copy in the house, especially since we have a branch of the library half a mile away! (We did start trying to down-size two moves ago; the initial give-away made the second time easier.)


    • It does seem to be about finding good homes for them, doesn’t it? Once I’ve read the lion’s share of my Mom’s books, I hope to pass them on! Thanks for stopping by, Ruth! 😉


  5. Pingback: Future Challenge – What Are Your Most Precious Books? | The Retiring Sort

  6. Beautifully said. Your story sounds so much like my own. My parents were always suspicious if they went to someone’s house and they didn’t appear to have any books. Isn’t it strange that, nowadays, you can’t tell how many books someone has necessarily, or even if they’re a reader? I too have problems with space, having seven big bookcases already. We are trying to give away books that we know we won’t read again. I like the idea of books finding new homes and new readers.


    • I’m with you… there were only a few of my Mom’s books that neither my sister nor I wanted… and those are being donated. If a library doesn’t want them, shelters, camps, nursing homes, and other places are always looking for donations! Thanks so much for visiting, and for your comment!


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