Can't Live Without Books
For the past 34 years I’ve been a member of a Ladies Evening Book Club. I rarely miss a meeting and can't wait to see the new books, my love affair is with the books, I adore my friends, but I can’t do without the books. The smell of the paper makes me swoon.
My love of stories and books started as a child, my parents read to us as children and introduced us to this addiction. Both my parents loved reading so we always had many books in our house and my paternal Grandfather even collected First editions and Africana, he had a proper library with buttoned leather chairs and heavy curtains. My Granny was a ferocious reader and I can’t imagine her not having a book on her lap ever. Even when she was really old and forgetful. In fact she read the same first paragraph of a John le Carre for years.
My best friend and I played “library-library” which was at her house, I couldn’t wait to visit and often wished to sleep over to have two days of absolute bliss in our “library”. We’d collect books, catalogue them, and line them up on shelves we'd take turns at being the librarian. My favourite books were Dr. Seuss, C.S Lewis, Alice and the Looking Glass to name a few.
In Standard 3 I was shipped off to a small private Boarding school, near White River, very Colonial Old School, stiff upper lip. You know croquet on the lawn, with parents floating around with glasses of Gin and Tonic (Medicinal of course) decked out in chiffon dresses and straw hats. What I loved more than anything was the library, all those books to read and peruse. If I close my eyes I can still smell the musty paper. After games in the afternoon, we’d lie out on the lawn and read nibbling through our tuck boxes, then it was the Famous Five and Nancy Drew.
The books that made an impression while I was in High school were “The Royal Box” Frances Parkinson Keyes, my first adult book, When the Lions Feed and three subsequent books by Wilbur Smith, but then I lost interest in him and have never returned for more, I adored Jock of the Bushveld, initially because my brother shares a name with the author Sir James Percy Fitzpatrick and of course because we lived right on the Kruger National Park' fence. By 16 it was Lady Chatterley’s Lover and another unmentionable which we found in the desk in the Biology class. After school I went to work and read on the train, this was bliss as I was earning money to buy books and there was a book store just around the corner from where I worked. By now I was reading, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Solzhenitsyn, Ayan Rand, Michener, Le Carre, Leon Uris to name a few. My Granny encouraged me to read controversial books and bought me Caravans so that I could go and become a free-spirited hippy in Morocco, but alas I was too timid and shy.
It was during my first month living with my husband and baby in a new town that I was invited to join the book club, I’ve never regretted it. I made lasting friendships. In the early years we would have tea and cake, but as we became bolder and more confident we switched to wine and dinner, having load, raucous discussions, solving the world’s problems. Here I found peace, joy and comfort when times were tough. All four my children were brought up in a carry cot behind a couch in someone’s sitting room whilst we shared our love of books.
Once or twice we tried discussing the books but we found it put readers under too much pressure to perform and our aim was to read, as much as possible on a limited budget as books were heavily taxed in South Africa at the time, many books even banned or not available here as a result of sanctions.
I love gardening books, cookery books, spiritual books. I love biographies, fiction, non-fiction, travel books, I love my bridge books, my dictionaries, photographic books, old books, vintage books, new books, hard covers and paperbacks. If there’s one thing I regret it is that I “donated” hundreds of books to the Church fete (not that I begrudge the Church or the people who bought them) but in doing so I wiped out 30 years of reading and memories.
Some of my favourite books were: The Reader, Miss Smilla’s Sense of Snow, Chocolat, White Mischief, Dr Zhivago, The English Patient, A Fine Balance, Anne Frank’s Diary, A Maharani Remembers, The Lightness of Being, and Sophie’s Choice. Someone said we all have our drug of choice, mine is books. I particularly enjoy Goodreads and the New York Times book review. When I’m travelling the first store I visit will always be a bookstore, even if it’s in the Airport or Train station, I’ve gone scouting for books in the most unlikely places in Africa, India and Thailand. My favourite shops are Secondhand bookstores or book exchanges, not that I’ll ever exchange a book. Oh for the smell of a book. My children get books for Christmases and Birthdays or just for the hell of it, I just wish they’d read them. When I think of a wish list I forget the jewellery and lingerie and just give a list of books.
A backpack without books is a waste of time, that’s what they’re made for, and an over-weight one is a gift waiting to be opened once home.