“My mother introduced me to books by holding me on her lap and reading to me. I remember watching the odd black marks on the page as she translated them for us night after night. Eventually the letters and their groupings were no longer like animal tracks in the mud around a pond, those Babylonian indentations that mean nothing until they’re deciphered. The marks finally matched up with the comforting drone of my mother’s voice in my ear.
I could feel her voice through my back and side. Her body was a part of the story and she made me a part of the story. When my mother paused to take a deep breath, my body rose up a little with hers. One way that reading to a child invites participation in a book is this physical manner of sharing excitement through the body of the reader. Is this experience why I have never lost a visceral sense of the talismanic magic of a book? I believe with a pagan zeal in a book’s ability to hoard another’s experience and voice, and its willingness to sit with mythological patience on a shelf until you come along and touch it and it speaks to you — to you, specifically, because it was waiting for you.”
Michael Sims is a wonderful, and always surprising writer, and here are three of our favorite volumes from the Land Library’s shelves:
Apollo’s Fire: A Journey Through the Extraordinary Wonders of an Ordinary Day, Darwin’s Orchestra: An Almanac of Nature in History and the Arts, and The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E.B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic (Michael Sims’ latest book, and one we hope to return to in future posts!).
Always in search of inspiration, the Land Library will continue to return to a central theme over the next few weeks: the intrinsic value of reading, the power of books, and those first moments — our childhood encounters with the printed page. Our continued source of inspiration for these posts will be Maria Tatar’s Enchanted Hunters: the Power of Stories in Childhood (pictured above), a wonderful blend of scholarly insight and personal memoir. Maria Tatar has also included an invaluable appendix which records writer’s recollections of how books changed their lives — writers such as Michael Sims.
Next week: Eudora Welty & Books as Natural Wonders, Coming up like Grass