Double-packed Books

Finding Pleasure in Books

The author in her all-time favorite reading chair.

Picture books, art books, how-to, science, adventure, biography, history, humor, and all those stories! What an array of fun and information. Now is a great time to explore all there is! Project Gutenberg has thousands of free digital book ready to download. Many libraries have eBook lending programs. You can read your free eBooks on any number of free eReaders, available on line. Check out the links at the end of this article. It is all free.

The photo above is of a proto-reader, me, in my all-time favorite reading chair. I wasn’t reading, not quite yet. I was warming the chair up, in anticipation of the splendid travels I took during my youth, sitting in that chair, reading books.

As my older sister was learning to read, I felt some pressure to do the same. I recall feeling not quite ready to make the effort. Yet one evening, at the age of four, there I was, ‘reading aloud’ to my mother while she showered.

“Sandy ran down the street. He looked and looked. He wanted a home.”

Mom was impressed. I turned the page and basked in her approval.

“Sandy ran down the street. He looked and looked. He wanted a home.”

Her hair tucked into a plastic shower cap, Mom peeped around the white plastic shower curtain. I concentrated on the picture. What was the next sentence?

“Sandy ran down the street. He looked and looked. He wanted a home.”

She laughed. Caught—and holding the book upside down, too. I knew I wasn’t reading; my act was over. While my older sister practiced real reading, I memorized a portion of the plot. But not enough. How mortifying!

I was lucky. In our household, reading was part of the landscape. You might even say it was the landscape. From the earliest age, Mom and Dad read to us. We all loved stories. In the right mood, Dad made up stories about Eek and Ike, two mice who lived in our plumbing and had adventures.

The author’s father reading aloud to her brother and herself, bookshelves in the background.

These are some of the stories we loved: Ant and Bee; Every Jug Has Two Handles (a favorite of my brothers); Babar; Winnie the Pooh; Pepper and Salt; Wind In the Willows; Curious George the monkey; The Jungle Book; Pippi Longstocking; Heidi; and Bob, Son of Battle—an engrossing tale of sheepdogs and their owners.

From the My Book House series, a multi-volume collection of stories for kids, from youngest tots to the oldest, there was: King Arthur, Robin Hood, Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, The Quick-Running Squash, Shingebiss, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rumpelstiltskin, and Baba Yaga—an old woman who lived in a house that walked around on chicken legs.

As I started reading to myself, I returned to the fairy stories and the Baba Yaga stories most. A house on chicken legs? I loved it! Family friends introduced the engrossing fairy story collection where each book is a color: The Red Fairy Book, The Blue Fairy Book; there are twelve of them.

The Weekly Reader magazine became a part of our curriculum in 5th grade. Several times a year, books were offered for sale. The excitement of pouring over pages of available books, studiously combing through the plot descriptions. I marked every book I would buy, if it were a perfect world. Then I would pare my wishes down to the books I HAD to have, and convince Mom I would die if I couldn’t have this totally minimum selection.

Then the open-ended weeks, waiting for the books to arrive. Some kids showed no interest in books. This I couldn’t understand. A portion of the class would buy a book or two. I was the one with the big pile. What joy! Eight or ten books, stacked near my desk. The day-long wait for the luxury of holding each one, taking my time deciding which one to read first. Balanced carefully home on the school bus, they were my treasure. My brother and I agree, one of the best was The Lion’s Paw, by Robb White.

At first, and for some years, I couldn’t imagine reading a story without pictures. Pushing against my resistance, my older sister finally convinced me that books without pictures were worth a try. She was right.

Upstairs and down, there were book shelves all over the house. One day I discovered that the upstairs shelves with the paperback novels were double-packed. Behind all the books I’d already read or didn’t care to read, a whole new trove appeared: Georgette Heyer, Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, C.S. Forester, and many more.

Since 1908, our town had a wonderful library: The Gunn Memorial Library. In the 1960s it was still in its original stone building with the over-sized red door. Across the street was the old water trough for horses. Inside, illuminating the arched ceilings, were the most opulent, spell-binding murals of Greek mythology. The books lodged in dark wooden shelves and how I loved to browse through them.

Mrs. Hoadley, the librarian, could usually be found behind her desk by the door. Now and then, she would make a suggestion, and off I would go, devouring a new author; after all their books were read, I ‘shopped’ the shelves again, looking for new stories to snare my imagination.

Today, it’s so easy to search online for books and authors, though I recommend the serendipity of discovering something unexpected while perusing a real bookshelf. On Librarything, readers and authors put up their personal libraries, so you can enjoy them virtually. Goodreads has tons of book suggestions and information from people who love to read, and from authors. These sites are free to join. If you really catch the bug, write your own book. I did!

Free eReader apps: recommended Android eReaders

Other options, including apps for Apple devices

I use the free FBReader. As I prepared to publish my eBook Murkey’s, A Rabbit Noir on Amazon, I downloaded the free Kindle app.

For thousands of free eBooks: Project Gutenberg

Check your local library. It probably has an eBook lending program. The San Francisco Public Library is part of Overdrive, which coordinates eLending for libraries. Use your library card to borrow eBooks from the San Francisco Public Library

See a few photos of the original Gunn Memorial Library here: The Gunn Memorial Library. Go to my LinkedIn page, where I posted some of my photos of the ceiling murals seven months ago.