Angela loved to read.
She had books ready to read just as soon as she finished one. I always admired her ability to drift into the plot and become immersed in the story.
I like to read as well, but Angela was the one who always made reading seem like a real adventure.
When she retired, she devoted herself to two pastimes, reading and mahjong, both of which became her favorite ways for spending leisure time.
She even decided to volunteer to sort books for the library book sale every fall in Branford.
Volunteers work for most of the year sorting books for the sale; separating them into categories by topic. She enjoyed working with the children’s books and became quite adept at figuring out which age level they belonged in.
Of course, the sale itself was the culmination — displaying all the donated books out on tables and setting up check out stations throughout the tent.
When Angela passed, her friends asked me if I would like to step in for her at the sale. I could be a substitute for her. I readily agreed, grateful for the opportunity to keep her involved through me. So I have been there now for several years, channeling Angela, in the children’s section.
It turns out that the book sale has some unexpected benefits and some surprising observations. I find myself getting involved vicariously, in the excitement of the book seeker, finding a special book or finding a link to the past. This year, more than ever, I was struck by the number of people who still want to own a book, and in the case of children, coming up to the check out counter with a bag filled with books that they’re excited to have.
I must admit that the whole endeavor gives me cause to believe that even though we may think that technology has come to rule our world, the simple book, essentially unchanged in the past hundred years, still has a place in our lives.
Why is it, I wonder, that in spite of all the efforts to bring all of our activities into a digital format, some things have managed to survive? Perhaps it’s because some of our habits and memories can still evoke a pleasant response. A book, paper and pencil, a fountain pen, all things that have become practically obsolete, but manage to survive in some small way.
As a math teacher, Angela loved to have sharpened pencils at the ready, and so we all got used to having pencil jars on the computer desk, with all the points upright.
Getting back to the books, for me, holding a book and being able to turn each page manually becomes part of the experience of reading, being able to appreciate the graphics and binding, or just enjoying the fine paper on which its printed.
I enjoyed watching several adults seeking out books that were connected to their own childhood reading experiences: Nancy Drew, The Bobbsey Twins, smiling with remembrance of a story that they had enjoyed so many years ago.
I hope that the new generation of children will always have the option to own, and read a real book, printed on paper and bound in a serviceable cover. I hope that every home will continue to keep a space somewhere for a few books to sit, leaning against each other, waiting to be picked up. Even though schools are relying more and more now on digital books and hand held devices as replacements for textbooks, I do hope that there will still be a book in the book bag to carry home and use.
My world will always have room for books and I’m pleased to know that there are others who feel the same.