I just started reading a wonderful book this week. All about libraries. Those places, public or private, where books live. The Library Book by Susan Orlean is the selection for our book club this month, and I’d been putting off starting it. Now I wish I hadn’t, for I’ll have to rush through it to be finished in time, when I’d much rather savour it.
I think that all avid readers must love libraries. Just the thought of vast shelves full of books makes me shiver with anticipation. The shelves don’t even have to be vast. Just full of books. I have fond memories of visiting the little town library in Marysville, New Brunswick when I was a kid.
The Marysville post office and library were housed in the nineteenth century brick building on Mill Street, pictured below. At least I’m pretty sure that’s the right building. In my mind I see white painted shelves and the sun shining across big wooden library tables. Was it sunny every time I visited? Or does it just seem that way?
Just a word about Marysville before I move on. We lived in the little town of Marysville before my mum married my step-father and we moved to the farm. Marysville has been subsumed by the growing city of Fredericton, but it’s still very much the same town I remember. In 2016 my friends and I organized a small reunion for our junior high school class. The adults who attended were the kids with whom I started grade one at Marysville School. Oh my, I had such a wonderful time seeing all those kids.
We held the reunion in the town’s heritage centre, a brick building on the Nashwaak River, across the street from the huge, nineteenth century brick building which used to be the Marysville cotton mill. When I lived there, many of my classmates lived in the two-story brick duplexes which were originally built to house the mill workers. The street that ran up the hill past the mill was named Bridge Street, but everyone called it Brick Hill. Our school was brick, the post office was brick, the whole town was mostly brick. And now those same houses and buildings are a national historic site. The Marysville Historic District, a mostly untouched and lovingly preserved nineteenth century mill town. I think that is very cool. Back then it was just our town. Just where we lived, and went to school. And to the library.
I seem to be on a library theme this month. Besides Susan Orlean, I’ve been reading another new-to-me writer. Emilia Bernhard has two books so far in her Death in Paris series. And both revolve around libraries. The series features Rachel Levis, a poet and ex-pat American who lives and works in Paris. And her friend Magda, an on-line shopping entrepreneur. They are both inherently nosy, and aspire to be detectives.
Bernhard’s books are not literature by any means. But they’re a bit of a romp, in that they are fun to read, and sometimes funny. And for murder mystery fans kind of a vicarious thrill. I mean, who among us who reads mystery novels has not aspired at one time or other to be part of a good murder investigation? Or at least to solve a crime? Without any danger or messy gore or anything, of course. Rachel is a kind of grown up version of Nancy Drew. And Magda is her side-kick, like Nancy’s pal George, or maybe Bess. The books are set in Paris, of course. That’s another thing I love about them. Plus they are light enough to provide distraction in troubling times. I finished Death in Paris and am now half-way through the second book, The Books of the Dead.
It’s funny how many books feature libraries as an integral part of their setting or their plot. In Alan Bradley’s Buckshaw Chronicles, featuring Flavia de Luce, the library at Buckshaw seems almost as important a setting as Flavia’s laboratory. I’d love to be able to hunker down in a big old library like that, where so many ancient and fascinating books live. I loved Bradley’s Flavia de Luce books for a long time, then I grew tired of them. I haven’t read the last couple. But I still love the idea of Bradley’s character, the very precocious, motherless girl, Flavia. Her fondness for chemistry, and books, her bicycle, and Buckshaw, the down-at-heel estate where she lives. My interest in this series waned after a time, but it was good fun while it lasted.
I’ve barely started Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, but she drew me in right away with her detailed description of patrons waiting for the historic central library in Los Angeles to open. “Scholars, time-wasters, readers, school groups, business people, parents with strollers, the homeless” all lounging, leaning, pacing, sitting, chatting, waiting for the doors to open at ten o’clock. And when the doors did open they became “a rivering flow of humanity, a gush, and they were looking for baby-name guides, and biographies of Charles Parnell, and maps of Indiana, and suggestions from a librarian for a novel that was romantic but not corny; they were picking up tax information and getting tutored in English and checking out movies and tracing their family history.” Whew. Libraries are busy, lively, bustling, multi-faceted, wonderful places. They are integral to our communities. And Susan Orlean’s book reminds us how much this is so.
I love the memoir aspect of Orlean’s book. She talks eloquently of her early love of libraries, how she grew away from them, and then found her way back.
The same happened for me. At least with respect to public libraries. I somehow stopped using them after we moved to the farm. Instead I’d visit my grandmother Sullivan’s upstairs closet, and spend happy hours hauling box after box of books out into the upstairs hallway, ferret around in them, then replace the box with another. Eventually amassing a pile of books to take home with me. And I began to covet owning books instead of just borrowing them. I’m still a bit like that.
But a book has to have special meaning now, for me to want to possess it. It has to fit into my collection of favourite authors. I try to buy, and then keep, the latest Margaret Atwood or Margaret Drabble. I like to have my own copies of Penelope Lively or Nancy Mitford or Alice Munro books. Or a book has to have a personal meaning for me. I cherish old books. Especially ones that have names written in them of people I love. I even rescued a few old books with my own name in them when I packed up the book cupboard the summer Mum moved out of the farmhouse.
When I first moved to Ottawa, I started using the library a lot once again. The historic, little red brick library on Rideau Street was a favourite stop for my roommate and me, on the way home from work. And I read my way through the fiction stacks at the Manotick Public Library when I first moved in with Hubby.
But then greater responsibility and busier schedules at work meant my library patronage lapsed for a few years. I had less and less time to finish books on schedule; I began to accrue fines because I did not have time to go to the library to renew books. And I found myself sometimes returning books unread. I hadn’t stopped reading, far from it, but the library borrowing schedule wasn’t working for me anymore. I read in spurts at Christmas or in the summer, mostly. Instead of visiting the library, I haunted book stores, used and new. And the books we owned began to pile up. And up. Ha. Our own library was getting a bit out of hand.
When I retired I returned to the public library with gusto. Now, using our library’s excellent website, I manage a plethora of library book orders, hold schedules, and “due date” timelines for both Hubby and me. I am in charge of what we read in our house. Hubby will be reading at night and he’ll call out, “I’m two days from finishing my book, Suz. What should I read next?”
We’ve both adapted to e-books completely. We still read hard copy books, of course. But I can order a Kindle book in the middle of the night and have it on my i-pad immediately. Or I can peruse the e-book selection at the Ottawa Public Library and do the same when I find a book that is available. We never have to be without a new book to read.
Having books to read has long been my balm of choice during stressful times. And these are indeed stressful times for us all. Everywhere. Public libraries are closed here in Ottawa for the next while, as they are in many places. Which makes their electronic catalogue all the more valuable for those of us fortunate enough to be able to access it.
As you probably know, I come from a long line of avid readers. My grandmother, my great aunts, my aunts, my mum… all readers. My sister Connie says that Mum didn’t read much for a time when we were growing up. Mum told Connie that when we were young and she was a single parent with four kids, she was too worried she’d get lost in a book and lose track of us kids. That story makes me smile in so many ways. Because it makes me think of mum as an earnest young mother giving up something she loved for us. And because I remember Mum telling me, when I was a dreamy teenager with my nose always stuck in a book, that if I ever had kids I’d probably get so lost in a book I’d forget where I put the baby. Now, that bit makes me laugh. Sounds like someone takes after their mother, doesn’t it?
My sister Connie is a great reader too. I called her when I was writing this post to see if she remembered the town library in Marysville. She said only vaguely. What she remembers most is the small library at Marysville school, and working there helping the librarian on her lunch hours when she was in grade six. And reading the entire Jalna series by Mazo de le Roche that year. All sixteen books.
Have a look at this clip from the 1995 version of Sense and Sensibility. Remember the scene where Margaret hides in the library, with her beloved atlas? I love that movie.
Ah, libraries. The public ones. The private ones. Big and grand, or small and select but still prized. They are where books live. And what would we do without books? I mean, what would we do without books at any time? But most of all, what would we do when we really need them? Like now.
You know, I just realized that given the social distancing situation, I’ll probably have more time than I thought to savour Susan Orlean’s book. That’s a bit of a silver lining, eh?
Now it’s your turn. What are your library memories, my friends? Please tell us. And please let us know how you are keeping these days. These very strange and surreal days, when the libraries are all closed. I’d very much like to know. I think we all would.
P.S. The book links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link I will earn a commission.
49 thoughts on “Where Books Live”
I’m not someone who has lots of childhood memories unlike Hubbie who seems to have almost perfect recollection .However I can vividly remember the excitement of walking into our little town centre to return books & choose new ones . The library in Knaresborough was an old Georgian building in the cobbled market place & was very imposing for a little girl with it’s high ceilings & clattery floor . Then there was the librarian who took her duties very seriously & watched our every move . We were a little afraid of her but my younger sister did a wicked impersonation of her which eased the tension . We were allowed three books a week & one had to be from the factual section – not enough for me but those were the rules . These days I don’t use the library . Not sure why not . It might be that I like the anticipation of a good book on the shelf waiting to be read when I feel like it or perhaps it I don’t like the pressure of having to read it in a specific time . I haven’t tried the ebook system . So I buy my books , some new , some kindle but lots secondhand . Our charity shops are great for tidy , cheap secondhand books which I hand back to raise funds again . As you say we need books more than ever these days & I’m so glad I have a little hoard put by . This must be the emergency I was preparing for . There’s talk here of over 70s being confined to their homes for four months for their own good . Not sure I’ve enough books put by for that . I used to like jigsaws . There’s something very calming about slotting pieces into place especially at times of stress . I’ve found an app called Jigidi which I’m enjoying between books . Keep posting Sue . We need you more than ever now – you’re a public service ☺️
I love the little old libraries in some of the neighbourhoods here in Ottawa. Right up there with quirky second-hand book shops. There used to be several used book stores in the neighbourhood where I lived before I met Stu. Not necessarily rare and vintage books, but just good, old books. I remember reading my way through their selection of Nevil Shute who I discovered for the first time in the eighties. But all of those shops are gone now. That’s sad.
P.S. Slightly Foxed podcast has a great interview with Margaret Drabble on their latest episode.
P.P.S. That last bit was a public service announcement. Ha.
Your blog is always such a delight for the variety of topics. What never changes is the good taste with which you address them.
My mother was a librarian before I came along. That, more than the fact that my parents couldn’t afford to buy books, meant we went to the library weekly. I’d check out the maximum, and always finish them. The library where my mom had worked was an elegant Beaux-Art design built around 1900, all dark wood paneling, with creaking plank floors except upstairs, where the floors were glass blocks (and I was SO impressed). It smelled delicious. It felt like a hushed, holy place, climbing the steps into a temple of books.
Our neighborhood branch was very mid-century modern, though in the 1960s it was just modern. There was a wall of windows on the street side, and the teen international mysteries of my favorite author, Phyllis A. Whitney, were right by the windows, so I could browse like a cat in the patch of sunshine. It smelled delicious.
I am writing about a fancy new library and spoke to the architect and another expert on library design. They both said libraries no longer are temples shut off from the world, but use glass walls to connect with the world and to invite it in. They now have cafés and sponsor book clubs of all stripes. They have maker rooms with 3D printers and sewing machines and other tools that people might not be able to afford at home. (My first apartment was decorated with paintings I borrowed from the library.) Libraries are busier than ever. I was surprised at the number and diversity of people in our little library here (in a banal building with no discernible design). Sadly, our libraries are now closed due to the virus, but I have “Mon Amie Prodigieuse” by Elena Ferrante to keep me busy. I have been reading and enjoying “Barchester Towers” by Anthony Trollope, but the type is so small, sometimes I just can’t manage it. With Ferrante, I will have the challenge of reading in French. But plenty of time on my hands.
Oh yes , I’d forgotten the delicious smell
Thanks so much for the kind words. I know that modern libraries are supposed to be light and open and welcoming, but I still like the old dark dim ones.
I have so many childhood memories of our library. Through the years my mother raised the twelve of us, I doubt there were many weeks that she wasn’t walking with the under-tens to the library. In fact, somewhere in the family archives is a photo of my younger sisters, about five or six, who were asked to pose for the newspaper photo of the ribbon-cutting for a major expansion of the library. . . I have a cloudy memory of walking to “the old library” with my grandfather who was visiting from England. An inveterate reader, he was delighted to be able to borrow books, and apparently almost as delighted that, at four, I could manage to walk the whole way there and back with him–it was at least three kilometres away, my poor little legs!– even carrying my own books. I remember “the new library” before the major expansion, the large children’s department where we would line up on Saturday mornings as soon as Miss Ellison walked out with her music box. That was the signal for us to get very quiet so that we could follow her through the adjoining adult department and up the stairs to the small auditorium where for a half-hour Story Time. She was a marvellous reader, story-teller, and, occasionally, puppeteer. . . .I worked in that library as first a Junior Page, later a Senior Page (oooh, the status!) in my teens. Got to be a whiz on the Recordak machine, lining up the three cards (borrower’s card, date card, book card) just so to feed them through the rollers, enjoying the “click” as the machine recorded the image, catching the cards as they exited below, slipping them back into the envelope on the front page, closing the book and adding it to the borrower’s stack. What a great job that was!
I’m writing this at 2:48 a.m., an insomnia night, and your wonderful description of your library memories has been great entertainment, but has also started a process of remembering. . . if I don’t stop now I’ll be here until 4 and then be dragging my heels tomorrow, er, today. . . Thanks for the wee-hours distraction.
I knew you would have some great library memories. I still remember your story about lying in between the beds reading on Saturday morning when you were supposed to be doing chores. You have a storied history with reading and with libraries, my friend. Ha. Pun intended.
Early 1960’s building, quiet, calm. Shiny parquet floors, wide windows. A whole, glorious, separate section for children. Unbounded bliss. And later a primary school library, very small. Then, at senior school, a quiet place on the top floor, filled with sunshine and modern prints. At university in Leeds, I discovered the total thrill of the small, specialist libraries at the top of the building, where I could read in complete peace. I was often the only person in the Icelandic library, so would be given the key and entrusted to behave myself. Taking my very small children to the local library each week to choose their books and a weekly rental video. There have been many libraries in my life and I am eternally thankful. They will help to calm the whirling mind and give us something joyful to think about. Nothing wrong with escape to other worlds when this one seems – for the moment, at least – to be totally incomprehensible.
An Icelandic library… wow that is specialized. I’ve never read any Icelandic literature, although I think someone recommended an Icelandic mystery writer here on my blog not too long ago.
I did two years of Icelandic as part of my degree. The library was small and dark and filled with sagas. You could eat a Twix in there and nobody could see.
I think we can safely assume you will have lots of time to read the book before we can abandon social distancing. Stay safe!
I will, Susan. You too.
Lovely reminiscences. Our library in my hometown of Versailles is large and grand. I remember working on a research project in high school there with my identical-twin best friends, and giggling so much the librarian almost threw us out! The school library of my grade 1-8 country elementary school was about 1.5 times the size of my living room, but we had a full-time librarian. It was magical, as libraries will always be to me.
I can imagine a library in Versailles would be very grand indeed.
I had the good fortune to grow up in a very small town on the Jersey shore long before it was discovered by the big city crowd. My parents did not allow us to watch TV if we had school the next day, which limited TV viewing to Friday night, Saturday morning till 12, and Saturday night. We were instructed to keep ourselves entertained, which my four younger brothers usually did playing with plastic soldiers or later Battleship game, even I became very good ship blower-upper. We all became readers out of necessity. I made a walk across town each week to the small library, which looked like it had been someone’s summer house years before and donated to the town. The white- haired librarian was very cordial and helpful, guiding my reading. I remember walking down a back lane that was filled with honeysuckle, smelling their sweet smell and tasting the little bits of sweet nectar.
No matter the season, reading at the beach, on the back porch looking at the bay, up in my room, the library kept me and my brothers in books. To this day I feel secure and comfortable to have a back up of books to read. I love to download e-books from the library, especially when I’m recovering from surgery or ill or busy or traveling, and hard copy books are always a treat. It’s not the delivery system, it’s the opportunity to listen to someone tell their story, provide interesting information, and give me new insights.
Love that story Kathleen. Having no books to read induces a slight panic in me. I love the feel and look of old books but now prefer to read on my i-pad.
Firstly, thank you for your occasional book recommendations, which I enjoy a lot.
On the library front I remember my local childhood library, just a couple of minutes walk away, and my school library where the only appealing books I found were those on myths and legends of various other cultures (handy for quizzes, these days!)
My favourite though was our local library when I moved here with my husband. It was in part of a lovely historic manor house, which desperately needed renovation, and the few small rooms were stuffed with books, not just on shelves but in teetering great piles all over the floor.
Over time the renovations happened and the manor is now carefully restored and beautiful. The library moved into a bright, spacious, new home. The staff were still very quirky, but also very well-informed and helpful with all the queries you quote from Susan Orlean’s book.
Unfortunately, the UK government have slashed the part of our tax that went to local government by two thirds. There are many essential services which have to take priority, so our library – serving 330,000 people – is now in the space of a small shop, and its branches are manned only by volunteers. It is very sad to think of all the skill and knowledge lost, and all the children who will not have the same experience and cherished memories that we had.
Libraries in old houses like antique stores in old houses seem appropriate. I’ve read about the slashing of library funds in the UK. That is a great shame.
Lived in many different places growing up, as well as in adulthood, but always found my way to a library. To be surrounded by books–my bliss. But one library moment stands out in my mind. I was 16 when my father had a massive heart attack (hospitalized for more than three weeks in ICU). As soon as the doctor gave us the diagnosis, I headed to the local library with and pulled down all the medical reference books from the shelves (decades before the internet) and cast them across a large table–an action repeated over several days–reading and taking notes on everything I felt we needed to know about how to handle this situation. After all, you couldn’t take reference books out of the library. Got all the medical terminology down and then chased down his doctors in the halls of the hospital with my follow up questions using their lingo–to their annoyance. So be it. Something the rest of my family has depended upon me to do for any medical crises we’ve faced in the decades since then. Knowledge is power…as they say. And at that time, there was no place better to access it than the library.
Gosh, it seems funny now that but books were where we found whatever we wanted to know. I remember the set of encyclopedias we had at home as a kid. For school projects they were invaluable.And I remember my sister writing away to the Indonesian embassy in Ottawa to get information for a project she was doing for school. I was always impressed at how resourceful that was. They sent her all kinds of stuff.
BTW – On behalf of libraries in the US, you can sign up for advocacy emails from the American Library Association at http://www.ala.org/ . They will send updates on legislation impacting libraries and make it very easy to contact your representatives and senators on specific issues. Must do all we can to protect our libraries.
That’s a good resource, Mary, for American readers. Thanks.
My childhood ( more than 50 years ago! What, no, that can’t be…really?!) memories of a library are of the Bookmobile that came to our suburban school in Scarborough Ontario, once a week. I think the collection of books must have been curated because there seemed to always be lots of wonderful choices. The series of stories of Babar, the elephant, comes to mind. Someone mentioned Phyllis Whitney, also greatly enjoyed, and Lyn Cook was another, I believe Canadian writer, to make her way into my book bag.
Oh… the bookmobile. I remember being so afraid that I would forget to bring my books to school the day the bookmobile was scheduled to arrive. I as notoriously forgetful as a child. If we didn’t return our books we couldn’t sign out more. I loved the bookmobile. Imagine having a job as a travelling librarian. What fun. All those books and getting to drive a bus.
I love libraries! I own quite a few books (evidenced by comment on another recent post about my need to cull the collection), but I have borrowed many, many more than I own.
I remember as a young girl coming home from every library visit with a big stack of children’s novels and having the delightful conundrum of deciding which one to read first. And the joy of waking up on a Saturday morning with nothing pressing to do, and reaching over to my night table for one of my library books.
My other standout library moment was the first time I visited a public library after finishing my B.A., with a double major in English and French lit (crazy reading load!). For the first time in what seemed forever, I could choose whichever book I wanted, simply for the pleasure of reading. I almost wept tears of joy!
Okay, one other library anecdote: Just got a notice that three books I reserved have arrived at my local library. This unfortunately arrived just after the notice that our libraries are closed for at least the next three weeks.
English and French Lit at once must meant a ton of reading, Denise. And all done on a schedule without time to linger if you wanted or the time to read anything else but course work. I felt like you when I retired. No more assigned reading… and the freedom to read (or not read) whatever I fancy at the moment.
Thanks again for this well written blog, and for sharing your love for books. Thanks for the time and effort you put into such thoughtful and interesting posts. I always find that your writing produces a sense of quiet peace . I live in San Antonio, Texas, and we are all living with the disruptions caused by the coronavirus, and your blog, as always, is appreciated.
Thanks for saying that Pat. It’s great for me too, to be able to find new friends on the internet. 🙂
I really enjoyed the Library Book! History ,crime drama, architecture, fire management, city politics, the kindness and greed of the public all in one very factual book!
I’m savouring it now that my book club has been cancelled. I love her style of writing.
Oh, the Jalna books! My bff and I read all of them, borrowed from the library in our small village in Derbyshire. What a way to fill Sunday afternoon, when I should have been doing homework.
I’m still an avid reader, love the kindle app on my tablet, but also borrow ebooks from our local library here in Aus. Audible is very useful for long car journeys, or for entertainment whilst knitting, and there will be plenty of time for that soon, methinks.
My husband and I are always grateful for your book recommendations, you and Frances/Mater have introduced him in particular to many great detective series, and thanks to you I read lots of Dorothy Whipple last year, loved her books.
Isn’t Dorothy Whipple wonderful. I must have a look to see what else Persephone Books has that would be similar. Time for some gentle reading, I think.
I love libraries. I have had a library card every place I’ve lived, even if only for two months. I remember my mother taking me to get a library card and what a special occasion that was. My favorite childhood memories are when I was about nine years old and was allowed to ride my bike to the library by myself. I felt so independent. I would check out five books and put them in my basket. On the way home I would stop and get a candy bar. I would have all those lovely books to read. I could read them all in a weekend. I’d have to be made to go outside and play. All I wanted to do is read. And we were lucky to have our own books as well and the supermarket World Encyclopedia too! I really appreciate the books and audiobooks available from the library, especially now that the libraries are closed. What a wonderful post. And don’t get me started on my college library. Instead of studying I would read Vogue magazine which I discovered at the library. What worlds were opened up to me and I knew I had to travel and visit the places I read about. I learned what kind of life I wanted to lead.
I haven’t tried the audio books from the library yet. I think I can download them right onto my phone. Great for all the walking I hope to be doing this spring.
Yes, I download them to my iPhone through Overdrive/Libby. I believe Cloud Library offers them too.
Some of my favourite children memories were days spent in a childrens library-my father had to drive me there…I still remember the smell,and all of the days were sunny,too…..Books,magasines….it doesn’t exist in the same building,but it is still my favourite part of town
My grandmother used to buy books in episodes (did you have something like that?) some twenty years before I’ve started to read,so lazy summer days,investigating her magasines and books were a treat,too.
One of my favourite children’s book was my mother’s book,story about girl’s childhood in aristocratic Russia-it must be somewhere,I’ve forgot the author….
Books are sooo important now,especially e-books. I didn’t find these Emilia Berndhard’s books in kindle version,I’m so sorry,your link is to hardcover,too.
Be safe and well
I remember that a magazine my mum subscribed to when I was a kid had a serialized story every month. But I’ve never seen books in episodes. Didn’t Charles Dickens publish his books that way in the beginning?
P.S. With respect to the book links. I deleted them and re-linked. Check again to see if it’s correct now. But you will see something different than I do here in Canada, and on the Canadian site I see something different than what American readers see. So it’s possible that the e-book is not available in Europe.
Would this be the book you are thinking of ? – ‘ The House By The Dvina by Eugenie Fraser ‘ . If not you might like it . It’s one of my favourites .
Thank you Wendy,I’ve liked your “Lady In Waiting” ,so,I’m sure, I’ll like this one too.
The book I’ve mentioned,was a translation from russian (and,as it was here in fifties,both my mother and father had to learn russian as “chosen” foreign language in school-so,they had a lot of russian authors)
Wendy,I’ve started to read E. Fraser’s book- you are right,you have great taste in memoirs
My mother remembers the book I’ve written about- it is A Russian Childhood by E. Vodovozova
I am on the hunt for that book now. Did you get it on Kindle, Dottoressa?
Yes :-). Thank God for e- books in times like this.
So glad you are enjoying it D . It’s many years since I read it but it has stayed in my mind . Think it is on kindle Sue .
Given how much I enjoy your writing I’m not at all surprised that you love libraries, Susan Orlean’s book and the Sense and Sensibility movie. The world is troubled and books are a balm. My first library memories take me to a public library housed in a Victorian era town hall in the inner city suburb where I grew up. I loved that library – the amazing selection of books, the stern but helpful staff and the fact that I won a book in a children’s writing competition, all fed my love of reading. Orlean’s book is wonderful but I won’t say too much as you’re still reading it. It is so much more than just the fascinating story of the LA Central Library. Her childhood library memories, her love of libraries and the way she unpacks the contribution of libraries to society is awesome. Another book I greatly enjoyed is Emma Thompson’s script for and memories of making the Sense and Sensibility movie. I recently found this gem in a second hand bookshop and loved reading it. I think you’d enjoy it too and I wish I could loan you my copy 😉 Our libraries remain open but probably not for much longer – plays, concerts and our writers’ festival have been cancelled, as have almost all ANZAC Day celebrations, which is astonishing. Thank goodness for books and lovely platforms like your blog where I can escape and enjoy excellent company.
I love libraries too, and having them closed now is really unfortunate. Thankfully I have some books and magazines to catch up on.
My childhood library is the coziest place— a beautiful old brick building that reminds me of an old house. We have a lot of similar libraries in our system in Cleveland. One of the best was an old mansion that was turned into a library. Smaller rooms in abundance, winding staircases, it was an inspiration for my friends and I to pretend we were on a mystery adventure when we went there on rainy summer days in the mid 60s. Recently they closed it and built a shiny new big library with all the new bells and whistles and turned the mansion into a porcelain museum. At least they didn’t tear it down. It was an ADA nightmare, I am sure.
I read about Susan Orlean’s library book, but forgot about it, so now I will add it to my list. She is also from Cleveland (Shaker Heights) and may still live here. I read her Orchid Thief years ago and it was good as I recall. Another book related book to read is Booked to Die, by John Dunning. It’s a mystery about a detective who collects first edition books. It’s good and it enlightened me to the whole world of “first editions. “.
My husband is just starting to read more for pleasure and not work, and he relies on my recommendations. He is now reading The Tender Bar, a great memoir. I just loved it. If only my daughter loved reading books too. She says she reads online, to which I say “not the same”. I love books.
I’ve read the John Dunning “book man” series. I loved them, the mystery combined with the world of rare book selling was fascinating, I thought. I’d love poking around in a library that was in an old house. Must have been fun. There is a rural antique store near Ottawa that filled the entirety of an old house. I used to love poking around in all the rooms, where you’d sometimes find the most astonishing things. Totally unrelated to the rest of the room.
I have just bought the Susan Orleans ebook on seeing it here and am delighted that you will get a sliver of that. As others have said, thank heaven for ebooks at a time like this … I prioritized wine over the library as things began to close down. What a dilemma.
As for memories of libraries, for me it was the old Carnegie-funded library building in Saint John NB, not so very far from you, Sue. (Since I gather we are “of an age”, it’s likely that we don’t have many degrees of separation.) I was a regular as a kid at the SJ library; mostly I recall my “biographies of scientists” phase (Marie Curie a particular hero) and a long adolescent fascination with science fiction. That has waned in favour of mysteries as my escape of choice, but these days memories of vicariously experienced apocalypses are selling up.
Thanks for providing diversion during these strange times!
Thanks so much, Isabel. I remember reading about Marie Curie when I was about nine or ten. My mum bought me books that had the life stories of various scientists. And one about ballerinas. Funny that I still remember some of the details from those books.
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