Tomorrow (7/11/12), I’m giving a program at my local library. It’s on Jane Austen and her legacy, especially how it sparked my own career as an author, with a reading and signing included. It’s going to be informal, interactive, and fun. If you’re in the Seattle/Tacoma area, I’d love for you to stop by! (find more details here)
With the brick-and-mortar bookstores sadly disappearing, libraries are becoming increasingly the sole center of the book world for a lot of communities, even hosting author events like the one I’m doing. They have had to change with the times and technology, but, for now at least, library shelves are still filled with old-fashioned, physical books that have passed from hand to hand and given up their treasures to one reader after another. For the true bookworm, the lure is irresistible.
In Jane Austen’s day, libraries were more a private affair, and collecting books primarily the purview of the upper classes. Every great house had a library. In Pride and Prejudice, for instance, Mr. Bennet is always retreating to the safe haven of the library at Longbourn; Mr. Bingley apologizes that he doesn’t have a larger collection of books in his at Netherfield; and Miss Bingley praises Mr. Darcy’s delightful library at Pemberley. “It ought to be good,” he replied, “it has been the work of many generations.”
If you were not wealthy enough to have a vast collection of your own books, you could purchase a subscription to the circulating library in the nearest good-sized town. That’s what poor Fanny Price has to resort to when she is temporarily sent away from Mansfield Park to her birth family’s home in Portsmouth. She cannot replace all she’s lost, but books are a comfort still within her reach.
She often heaved a sigh at the remembrance of all her books and boxes, and various comforts there… The remembrance of the said books grew so potent and stimulative that Fanny found it impossible not to try for books again. There were none in her father’s house; but wealth is luxurious and daring, and some of hers found its way to a circulating library. She became a subscriber; amazed at being anything in propria persona, amazed at her own doings in every way, to be a renter, a chuser of books! And to be having any one’s improvement in view in her choice! But so it was. Susan had read nothing, and Fanny longed to give her a share in her own first pleasures, and inspire a taste for the biography and poetry which she delighted in herself. (Mansfield Park, chapter 40)
Notice that part of the enjoyment Fanny anticipates is sharing the delight of reading with someone else (in this case her younger sister, Susan). Isn’t that true of all of us? Books are a pleasure we long to share. Which brings me back to Wednesday’s event at my local library. Like Fanny, a large part of the enjoyment I anticipate from that evening is in sharing my love of books and reading with others.
Who have you shared your love of books with? Who first taught you to love reading?
My mother taught me to read, my first “by myself” excursion was a walk to the public library, and I honestly cannot remember a time when books were not at hand. Both of my parents were readers, and books were always available. My favorite birthday and Christmas gifts were books! I have tried to pass that on to nieces and nephews, and children of my acquaintance.
Thanks for sharing, Lauren! You’ve just proven my point; reading is a love passed down, in your case from parents to you and then to the next generation. You’re obviously doing your part!
I have shared my love of reading with my students and friends, and have even given away some of my own books which I bought but have not yet read. It was my parents who first made me fall in love with reading, when they left me for a couple of hours at the local bookshop every Sunday while they went grocery shopping 🙂
Yay for Mom and Dad – leaving you at a book store instead of parked in front of the TV – and for you passing it along!
What a great write up. I can’t imagine my life without books. My childhood consisted of two things: books and the outdoors. I used to pretend I was a Bronte sister; sometimes I was Jane writing to Cassandra. My dad inherited his great aunt’s book collection which includes volumes from the 1800s. Someday, I’ll inherit those heirlooms. I hope to impart my love of books and imagination to my nieces and nephew.
What a wonderful legacy – your heirloom collection of books. I’m sure you will treasure them as they deserve to be. Thanks for sharing your story!
My mother walked my brother and I to the library in our little town from the time we were very young. She also joined the Literary Guild – a mail order book club – and as a treat I was periodically allowed to order a book from one of their catalogs. The first book I received as a gift was “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Suess and I remember learning to read it. In grade school I enjoyed reading the Nancy Drew series. Gotta love books!
Good job, Mom! My favorite Suess was “Green Eggs and Ham” and I read a lot of Nancy Drew too.
My older sister taught me to read before I went to school. However, it wasn’t until one Christmas when I received a big book of 365 bedtime stories that I understood books could be for fun. Starting when I was 9 my older sister took me to the library with ehr. I hid in the corner where the G- H were located. Read Zane Grey, Earle Stanley gardner and Grace Livingstone Hill before I could understand the stories.
my children were taken to the library within days of birth and all are readers. I used to send my granddaughter her own book of the month . She was a reader until she discovered texting.
Oh, no! I was really encouraged until I read the bit about your granddaughter and texting. Let’s hope that in time she finds her way back to the light.
I hope lots of people came. I wasn’t able to make it due to a family emergency. I don’t recall my early childhood much. As I grew a little older my mother had encyclopedia type books that were about cultures and peoples instead of the usual. I enjoyed those. I think I started enjoying reading in junior high when we could buy books at book fairs – and a lot of it had to do with what we read at school.
Oh, I’m sorry you couldn’t come, Suzan. It would have been fun to see you again!
In junior high, I just loved the Black Stallion books or anything about horses. Then I moved on to Nancy Drew.