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A room  without books is like a body without a soul…. Marcus Tullius Cicero

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read… Groucho Marx

I know it’s true that a picture paints a thousand words but those thousand words make us use our imagination.  They paint a picture in our heads that we don’t need eyes to see. A good writer can transport us to another place and time.  They make  us want to stay in the moment forever, never letting  the book end.  A good book makes you want to slow down the pace of reading it, just so you don’t have to leave it and at the same time makes you never want to put it down because you want to reach the end and absorb it all.

I love books.. I love the language.. I love the story.. I love the smell of the paper.. I love the feel of a book in my hand.  I love the whole experience.  I lost my love of books for a while and now that I have rediscovered it I will never let it go again.  I’m excited  by reading.  It fills a void in my soul.  A bit of an exaggeration you say?? I don’t think so.  I forgot how alive I felt when I read.  My ex husband was only semi literate.  I tried to encourage him to improve his skills but his mother felt it was a personal attack on her parenting, so dissuaded him from trying. As a result, he couldn’t understand why I wanted to read at night before bed.  He saw the book as a rival for my attention and so whinged and complained until I turned the light off.  I shouldn’t have allowed him to take that away from me but sometimes, it’s easier to just give in.

I got out of the habit of reading.  I forgot the magic.  Absence may make the heart grow fonder but in this instance, it was out of sight, out of mind.  How could I have done that? How many more books could I have read in my life if I hadn’t succumbed to pressure and walked away from my love?  I can’t blame him entirely as, not only did I let it happen but when I had the chance to read again, I didn’t.  I did start to rediscover my love of language when i was reading Aimee (my daughter) the book Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner.  If you haven’t read this classic, you should.  There has never been more beautiful prose written.  In my opinion, this is the epitome of descriptive and emotive writing.. Forget the story, the language is just amazing. (but I love the story too)

I used to read a chapter to Aimee every night to share my love of language with her.  I was nearly finished the book when she was killed.  I chose the hymn “Abide with me” at her funeral because it is featured in the book and we had just read that chapter.  But I couldn’t bring myself to read again for a long time.  I read what I needed to but not for the love of it. The beauty of the written word was tainted by an all consuming grief.  It took me over 10 years before I started reading for pleasure again.  I still haven’t reread Seven Little Australians but I will.  Someone borrowed my book from me, knowing the story behind it and that it was the last book Aimee and I read together and never returned it. I was shattered but I will find it again and rediscover the Woolcot family and share their trials and tribulations.

When I regained my love of reading  I wanted to kick myself for having avoided it for so long.  As a kid my favorite author was Enid Blyton.  Oh to lose yourself in the world of the Secret Seven or the Famous Five.  I wanted to be their friend.. I wanted to join them in their detective work.  I preferred the Secret Seven but if I couldn’t be a member of their gang, the Famous Five would suffice.  I wasn’t fussy.

I desperately wanted to climb the Magic Faraway Tree and meet Dame Washalot and visit the worlds of Topsy Turvy and Spells and Dreams and definitely the Land of Do-as-you-please.  I didn’t feel the need to visit the Land of The Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe though.  Being from a family of 12 kids I felt I was already living there.  I would loved to have been able to step into the mind of Enid Blyton just for one day.  It has always saddened and angered me that people took Enid’s beautiful  Noddy series and tried to turn it into something ugly and shameful.  How soul destroying for her must this have been.  To have created something magical and have it turned into something base and dirty.  I don’t understand the kind of mind who takes chidlren’s fantasy stories and tries to find smut and evil in their creation.  Shame on those people.

I also adored the Little Women series of books by Louisa May Alcott. Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys… ahhhh to me they the American version of Seven Little Australians.  I have watched all the movies based on these books and although I love the Winona Ryder version of Jo the best, I have adored every one of them.  Elizabeth Taylor played the perfect Amy but I like Katherine Hepburn’s Jo more than June Allyson’s.  It’s very rare that I think a modern remake is better than older movies but the Gillian Armstrong production with Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon was superb…. but I digress. This is about books, not movies.  Sorry for the slight deviation but I just adore this story in all it’s forms.

I still have a huge collection of Enid Blyton books and add to it whenever I can.  I have my original Famous Five and Secret Seven books with their torn red covers and my name in them in childish scribble. Whilst I don’t have grandchildren yet, one day I will and I want to share with them my love of these stories and hope they share the excitement of literature with me.  I also have a collection of Disney books, fairy tales, golden books, the Little House on the Prairie series, Anne of Green Gables and a mixed bag of classic children’s books such as The Railway Children, Tom Sawyer etc.  Madeleine L’Engle who wrote young adult fiction said “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children”.  How true is that.. children can grasp what adults can’t as their minds haven’t yet been corrupted with being told it’s impossible.  As GK Chesterton said, “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”  We all need to know we can beat our dragons.

When I was in high school, whoever chose the books for our year levels understood literature, thankfully.   I still love the stories we read at school (except for Lord of the Rings.. that didn’t interest me.. still doesn’t)  We read To Kill a Mockingbird,  Animal Farm, 1984, Of Mice and Men and My Family and Other Animals. There were others of course, but these ones really stuck with me.  These were my first truly adult books which made me see the world in an entirely different light.  Suddenly I felt like a grown up.  I will always thank these stories for this transition into adulthood.

As I’ve started reading again, I’ve discovered a whole new breed of writers.  I picked up a small book in a cheap shop a few years ago as I was going on a train journey and wanted something to fill the time.  This small book introduced me to Monica McInerney who is now one of my favorite writers.  I’ve recently discovered Sophie Kinsella and Nicky Pelligrino.  All these ladies write about people.  There’s no car chases or fast paced action.  It’s just everyday life with the emphasis on people, relationships and family dynamics.  These type of novels are now my books of choice.   I do read a lot of self help books which have certainly helped me get through the worst times of my life.  I know people poopoo self help books but if you can take one thing from a book and it helps, I say it wasn’t a waste.  Paul McKenna, a hypnotist and author has literally changed my life.  His book and cd of Change Your Life In Seven Days is just that, life changing.  (mind you it took longer than 7 days but it did what it set out to do).

I never had a great respect for Roseanne Barr until I saw a picture of one of her houses.  It had a huge library.  I suddenly had library envy.  I only hope she actually read the books and didn’t just have them on display for the hell of it.  Over the years as I’ve shifted, I’ve had to get rid of books which has totally distressed me.  Once I’ve read a book, I like to keep it.  I don’t think a kindle would suit me quite so well as I love the smell and feel of a book.  I’m sure they’d be great for train rides and such.. but I love the whole experience of reading a book, not just the story.

I wish I could be a child again, just long enough to read the Faraway Tree series and believe all over again..  The books are as good as they ever were and I can still lose myself in the magic but I want to read them with the innocence and acceptance of a child. I guess I’ll have to wait till I’m reading them to my “yet to be born” grandchildren and watch the wonderment on their faces as they visit all the incredible worlds.

I thank my Mum for instilling in me the love of language.  She loved to read although didn’t do anywhere near enough of it with so many kids.   Sadly, she too let the love disappear for a long time but she did introduce me to so many of my favorite novels.  Such was her love of reading whenever she could find the time, that our toilet wall was covered in interesting little tidbits she’d got out of magazines and newspapers.  It gave you something to read while you were otherwise busy lol  Whenever I see or read Little Women, I think of my sister Irene.  She was enamored with the story which is why I wanted to read it. Thanks sis..  I think I fell in love with poetry too because of Irene.. I still love poetry to this day and can quote the ones I learned as kid.  It’s a pity that poetry isn’t as popular as it once was.  Finding the rhythm and timing to a poem is a great gift.

Coming back from my 10 days away, I brought a bag of books back with me.. I love going through op shops and garage sales to find them and I scored well this time.  I can’t wait to read them all so I can go and get more.   The op shop around the corner here sells them for 20c each.  What a cheap pleasure.  I’m restocking my library again as I did do a huge clean out.  Now it’s time to rebuild a library fit for a queen.  In my own story, I can be anything I want to be and today I choose to be a queen.  I’m currently reading The Italian Wedding by Nicky Pelligrino so I think it’s time to pour myself a cup of tea, lay down on the couch and spend some time in the company of the characters.

Happy reading.. Livvy 🙂

PS.. The first picture is the library I have now.. The second is what I aspire to.

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