Reading Culture and Books

I want to start this off by saying almost everything I know that’s important to me I learned by reading. Yes, I went to school. I went to college. I got a degree. I took courses post B.A., but never finished another degree. It just wasn’t important to my career. I had a child, husband, friends, family, and worked full time. A degree I didn’t need wasn’t in my cards.

But I read books. I was that bookworm kid, but no one laughed at me. Actually, most of them wanted to know what I was reading and I think, looking back, I probably prodded many people to start reading who would never have done it without a push. I didn’t do it on purpose. I was a monumentally enthusiastic reader and I always wanted to tell people the stories I was reading. Many of them decided maybe they should give it a whirl too.

My mother was a nonstop reader. Really, everyone in the family read, but my mother and I read more than most people. Even my mother sometimes pulled the books from hands and told me to “Go out and get some fresh air!” We played school and talked about books. No kidding. We turned it into a game.

We had books everywhere. We eventually built an extra room full of bookcases and my best job ever was working as a writer/editor at Doubleday Books in Garden City. As a bonus, every time you wrote about a book — and books were the only thing we wrote about — they gave us a brand new copy of the book, carefully wrapped in tissue paper. If you worked there for a few years, books became furniture. Stacks of them with glass on top? A coffee table. Worse? Garry grew up the same way, so he has books. When we moved here, we gave away every book for which we could find a home until everyone said “STOP! WE HAVE NO MORE ROOM!”

We still have far too many books and no one wants them. I can’t throw them away. You can’t throw books in the trash. It’s just not done. Or not done by us.

Questions – but not all of them. Some questions overlapped.

Who were the readers in your family?

Me and my mom.

Did your family subscribe to the newspaper? If you did get the paper, was your Sunday newspaper special? What part did you enjoy?

We got two newspapers. The NY Times and the NY Post back when it was really newspaper. The Sunday paper had comics in color and sections about (sigh) books.

Did your home have books strewn around? Hardbacks or paperbacks?

Mostly hardbacks, but eventually everything. Books were everywhere.

Did you frequent the library at school?

We didn’t have a school library. Overcrowding. We did have a local library, but by the time I was in junior high, I’d read most of it. My mother started buying books from private lending libraries in bulk.

What was the first book you remember reading?

No idea. That was 70 years ago.

Did you have a collection of books (Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Happy Hollisters, etc?)

The Black Stallion. All those Walter Farley books.

Did you read comic books? If so, what titles?

I was definitely a DC fan. I thought Marvel characters were weird.

Did you end up a bookworm, a casual reader, or someone who read only when required?

I have never stopped reading although now, as often as not listen rather than reading. My eyes scream “thank you”!

What book or books have been extremely meaningful or influential in your life?

Angelique by Anne Golon.

What book(s) do you frequently gift to others? Why?

I used to give people books, but anyone who reads has too many books. We are all overbooked. People look pained when you give them books. I can read their minds, think “Where am I going to PUT this?” I share their pain.

Categories: Audiobook, Books, newspapers, reading

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17 replies

  1. I was the top reader in my family. The local library was like a second home and the school library a friend. While siblings were outdoors playing games and involved in sports, I was reading, drawing and planning out the plays for family and friends to act out on rainy days. Grandma and Mama read, mainly magazines and newspapers. I read those too, but BOOKS were my best buddies and still are. Dan and I have thousands of books and shelves filled to the brim in most of our rooms–that after giving hundreds of books away. Even though shelves are overflowing, I still buy books!


  2. Marilyn, it is so nice to have you join us this week. You have quite the varid genre of books from what I see in your photos. A local bibliophile ran the best bookshop in our town. He scrounged for collectors all over the world. When he passed recently, he left his book collection to the local private library. They are overwhelmed. Books are so important to our society and undervalued by many.


    • I would have given everything to our library, but they don’t have room. The library needed some money to expand and fix the place up, it having been built in 1883. It was the first free public library in the U.S., by the way. It would have added $2 to everyone’s tax bill. The town turned them down. So they have no room and are barely able to keep the doors open.

      Not only are BOOKS undervalued, LIBRARIES are undervalued. They don’t seem to realize that there’s more to a library then lending books. It’s that one quiet place where many kids are able to study without being harassed by siblings, parents, or anyone. Libraries are SAFE places, too.

      But there are so many things wrong these days. The list seems endless.

      I do have a very eclectic set of books, but it reflects all my varied interests, all Garry’s interests — and all the things we’ve loved over a life that is collectively 155 year long. Also, in recent years I stopped buying novels (except for a special few) and bought reference books. Those pottery books are worth a lot of money, but I don’t really know how to market them. For someone who collects pottery, those books are extremely hard to find and were expensive when they were new and are priceless now. If only I knew to whom I could donate them, I’d gladly do it.


  3. i love books and always have


  4. Thank you for joining in this week. I know what you mean about visiting others that have no books at ll. It seems so foreign to me. When I retired from teaching I gifted my books to my students, local preschools, family and friends. I agree that books are to be treasured. Most of my last purge went to a relative in another state who has many home schooled kids nearby. They had an instant small library. I hope you can find a good home for your books.


    • Ideally, I would gladly give them to anyone who could make use of them. Some of them are actually valuable (first editions or very old).

      I always wonder what people who don’t read do with their time. Watch TV? Play video games? Drink to excess?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Marilyn, I was just like you as a child and my house is full of books. I love my books and also would not through them away. To be honest, I can’t imagine my life without reading and books saved me during the pandemic. They made it all better and I had more time for reading. I can’t see that life would be worthwhile without them.


    • Sometimes, we visit people and realize they don’t have any books. No bookcases. No magazines. Sometimes, not even a newspaper. We wonder how they live like that. What do they do with their minds? I really don’t know how I could survive without books. In a world gone more than a little mad, books give me peace and hope. Everything that’s important to me has come from stuff I’ve read. I wouldn’t know anything without books.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. When my mother was ready to downsize her home, my sister called the local Planned Parenthood Book Sale and told them that she had 25 YARDS of books that she wanted to donate. They timidly asked if she meant 25 feet of books, and she replied that no, she had really meant 25 YARDS! My sister now volunteers for that same book sale (it’s an annual fund-raising event), and she will eventually donate almost as many books to them!


    • They accept books at the grocery which anyone can take and books I think others might like I put there. I just gave them a couple of dozen cookbooks, some quite old because everyone needs a cookbook or ten.

      We filled whatever space remained in the local library, then we started off-loading at two different high schools and the senior center (they got all my old audiobooks on tape). When they said NO MORE, we tried the Salvation Army, but they closed down during COVID. So now, we just have all those books. I wish we had some kind of sale for them. I don’t even know how many we have. Not 25 yards, though, at least not anymore because we did manage to off-load several hundred — maybe more — when we first moved here. I rarely buy books except for first editions by authors I love. I have no idea what will become of them when I am gone. No one has the kind of room we used to have these days. People are jammed into little apartments where they have no room for a full size refrigerator, much less a couple of thousand books.

      The world has changed in so many ways.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I even tried University libraries and the “Friends of the Library” bookstore — they didn’t want them. And the little used bookstore would only take books if you would take some away! They’re not easy to get rid of! Some now go to thrifts (Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc.) but many simply go to the trash because nobody wants them.


        • It makes me very sad. I’m trying to find homes for my very VERY antique Chinese porcelain. No one has room and those who would normally want them are my age and are trying to find homes for their own stuff. I didn’t imagine that the next generation would have no interest in any of this stuff. I assumed I could pass it down, as my mother pass stuff to me. But it didn’t work out that way at all.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Surely there are museums of antiquity in Boston that would love to have VERY antique Chinese porcelain for their collections.


            • The problem is that I don’t have provenance for much of it, having bought it before you needed proof of everything — and it isn’t museum quality. It’s “everyday” people pottery. The Chinese — old Chinese dynasties — believed that everyone needed art. Rich or poor, you need something beautiful in your life. So they made magnificent pottery for the rich and powerful, but they also made beautiful little things for everyday people. Fancy rice bowls, Han pots that were the Tupperware of its day. Museums collect that stuff I could never afford. This is the “daily” pottery of ordinary people. Personally, I think it’s even MORE interesting. When you hold a Han pot, you are holding a couple of thousand years of history in your hands. It’s not just a pot. It’s all the places that pot has live. All the hands that have held it. It IS history. But it’s also imperfect. Chips, cracks — museums want perfect pieces and these are not. Some of them are very VERY old and they need to be kept safe because if they are broken, they will never come again.

              I got a couple of small table lights and am going to take pictures and start sending letters to places asking if they might be interested. It would be nice to get a few dollars for them, but honestly, I’d just be happy knowing they are safe and aren’t going to end up in a dumpster.


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