Ode to a Book

Image credit: BOOKS © Dana Bartekoske Heinemann Dreamstime.com

Sitting much like the girl I once was, I huddle with my legs criss-crossed, head bowed and book before me. I take my time poring over the front and back covers, searching the artwork for some hint of the adventure I’m about to take. The crackle of the pages, heralding its newness, signals that something new and exciting is about to take place. With its spine splayed open, the journey begins. Although I’ve never read these words in this combination or traversed this foreign plain before, it’s like a homecoming. I love the feel of the book’s weight in my hands, the dog-eared pages from when we are forced to part, the way the bottom of the pages swell from being held against my body in the summer sun, and the occasional smear tracing the downward voyage of a teardrop. With a book in my hand, I am whole. With every flip of the page, I am growing.

This feeling is as true today as it was when I read my first novel. So inspired was I by the undeniable power of a good book, that I have pledged to author at least one of my own before I die. It’s not that I seek fame or fortune, or that I long to see my face on the back cover – it’s that I simply wish to move someone the way that I have been moved over the years. Sadly, I feel as though time is running out. Between endless hours devoted to eking out a living and raising a family, the years seem to fly by as little to nothing is added to my dusty and decaying first draft. But my greatest fear isn’t that I will die before I’m able to finish it, it’s that books might die first.

H.G. Wells once foretold of the “decaying vestiges of books” in his classic 1898 novel The Time Machine. Through the eyes of his Time Traveler standing in a long-abandoned library, the author wrote of the future, “They had long since dropped to pieces, and every semblance of print had left them. But here and there were warped boards and cracked metallic clasps that told the tale well enough. Had I been a literary man I might, perhaps, have moralized upon the futility of all ambition. But as it was, the thing that struck me with keenest force was the enormous waste of labour to which this sombre wilderness of rotting paper testified.”

With 2011’s death of the nation’s second largest bookseller – Borders Bookstores – and the growing popularity of e-readers and tablets, I fear the inevitable demise of hardbound and paperback books. I cannot imagine a world without tangible copies of Pat-the-Bunny and Goodnight Moon, tattered issues of To Kill a Mockingbird and Wuthering Heights, or row after row of delightfully book-strewn shelves in a local library. With two little girls who feel as passionately about their electronic devices as I do about my cherished Stephen King collection, I fear I am fighting an uphill battle.  Although, every once in awhile – I catch my oldest daughter – sitting with her legs crisscrossed, head bowed, and book before her, and I am filled with hope.

Mostly, because I know that the one book she would love to read above all others is one that I have written.


Image Credit: BOOKS © Dana Bartekoske Heinemann | Dreamstime.com

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