Posted by: Nancy Keim Comley | June 19, 2012

Have You Eaten Any Good Books Lately?

A couple of weeks ago I watched my young son carefully open one of his favorite books (Richard Scarry’s CARS AND TRUCKS AND THINGS THAT GO). He pushed the page down flat and then jumped on the book. It was a deliberate leap from the floor onto the book. He then waited a moment before hopping off and trying again.

He’s a very logical person so I asked the obvious question.

“What are you doing?”

“I want to be in the story,” he answered.

When my older child was one an a half she ate a page from each of her three favorite books. YOKO by Rosemary Wells, TOOT’S ABC by Holly Hobby and HERE COMES MOTHER GOOSE by Iona Opie and Rosemary Wells each lost a page. It was a careful act and centered on her favorite parts of the books. I thought about it. These were books my husband and I had read until we could recite them while juggling underwater. They were books she carried around, books she would sleep on if allowed, books she loved.

What do these two acts have in common? Not, as it would appear on the surface, simple vandalism. They both have a desire to be a part of a book they loved. One by imbibing pages, the other by attempting to physically enter into the story.

Jean Craighead George passed away a few weeks ago. When I heard this I remembered that, after reading MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, I wanted to live in a tree. As I read other people’s reminiscences of her and her books, I learned I hadn’t been alone; if it had been possible, there would have been thousands of children living in trees, just like Sam Grimby.

Why do we have such a desire to be part of the books we love? What makes us fall so far in love with a book we not only want to read it, we want to be part of it? Characters, plot, pacing. A good book grabs us, demands that we read it right now and leaves us wanting more. I still remember finishing Ellis Peters BROTHER CADFAEL’S PENANCE (the last book in the series) and seeing in the author’s bio that Ellis Peters had passed away in 1995. I promptly burst into tears. Not only was Ellis Peters dead, Brother Cadfael, who I loved dearly, was dead. An irrational reaction, but it was straight from the heart.

Have you ever had a book that you’ve wanted to eat, jump into, or that made you want to live in a tree or have some other completely irrational, gut reaction? What books have grabbed you and won’t let go? Why won’t they? I really want to know.

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Responses

  1. I’ve read At The Mountains Of Madess by H.P. Lovecraft multiple times and each time I get further into the story, a little deeper. it makes me want to travel and see hidden places, explore forgotten areas.

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    • I’m a big re-reader too. It makes me feel a book is more firmly mine.

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  2. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. I identified immediately with the desire to pick up and leave a lackluster life when I read it in high school and when I reread it a year ago. Starting a new life, experiencing new places and self-reliance are romantic notions to me. And the off chance that there might be somewhere else in the world, or at least the U.S., that I might thrive more than where I am makes me want to jump into the story and make it a reality.

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    • I’ve never read The Bean Trees, I’ll have to get it. We all need to run away occasionally, even if it’s only in our mind.

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  3. Books can be luscious and transporting — I remember I had a similar reaction to the one you described (true grief) when the author Laurie Colwin died – wonderful novelist and wrote a pair of cookbooks that were really memoirs. If you’re not familiar with her work take a peek. (By the way, very engaging post!)

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    • Thank you! I’ll have to look at the Laurie Colwin books.

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