Books have been an essential part of my life for as long as I can remember. I loved hearing my mother's voice as she read to me. Her sister, my aunt Lee, worked for Cokesbury Bookstore in Tennessee and sent us books for birthdays and Christmas. She'd wrap them individually, so there were always lots of presents: Charlotte's Web
, A Little Princess
, Winnie the Pooh
, The Wind in the Willows
, A Child's Garden of Verses
, Alice in Wonderland
, and Through the Looking-Glass
. As I got older, there were poetry books and a scarlet leather-bound edition of the complete works of Shakespeare.
I love the way the spine of a book feels in the crook of my fingers—the smooth, hard end boards snug on either side of the pages sewn together, their edges flush and perfect. My best friend restores rare books, and over the years she has taught me to love books in a new way. It was she who introduced me to the idea of keeping a diary—we were always on the lookout for the perfect journal—where we salted our personal entries with favorite bits of poetry and prose copied from whatever we happened to be reading at the time.
And it was from her I learned that between 1850 and the late 1980s, books were printed on acidic paper. Conservators can't keep up with the costly restoration. Soon, millions of books in thousands of libraries the world over will be lost when their pages disintegrate into dust.
The summer before last, I took a writing class on Tuesday evenings. Our teacher, Jack Grapes, traditionally organized a potluck dinner for the last session, where we exchanged chapbooks. As part of the class, we published small books of the poetry and stories we had produced over the semester. That year it fell on the night of September 11. We decided to meet as planned and read from our chapbooks, thinking that it would be better to spend that awful night together, sharing the best parts of ourselves.
What's on Kathy Bates' Bookshelf? Read more!