Wednesday 13 April 2011

Library reading frenzy

I went to the library twice this week. Which is remarkable really in that I haven't been at all in about a year. When I was a child we seemed to go all the time. It would have been once a week, I suppose, to keep my mother in books, but it seemed like both a habit and a treat. The times I remember best were after I was at boarding school, so those library visits were for reading fodder to fill in the lovely freedom of holiday hours. My mother always went straight to the returned books rack (why? because books other people had read might be more appealing? or newer?) usually followed by the crime section. I could have spent hours browsing, but clearly I needed a system too so I could keep up with her speed selection.So I would always pick one book of fairy tales (I favoured those Ruth Manning-Sanders ones, A Book of Trolls, A Book of Princesses as well as the Fairytales from... one place or another), plus something by an author I already knew and liked, then I'd select two more fairly randomly, trying to beat my speedy mother (and if he were there, my brother, who sought out dull books about space or fishing, as far as I can remember). One time when Mum beat me to it, she pulled from the shelf an Elizabeth Gouge to add to my pile; I forget which one but it was the first, and a revelation. Maybe she did this often, opening my eyes to undiscovered writers.

Anyway, this week I took the girls because it's their holidays, and even though we have enough books in the house to entertain them for several years, more and different books are always welcome. Besides, the choosing in a library is such fun. You can have lots ( I actually don't know how many) and you can experiment. It doesn't matter if you don't like them. And the books in a library are so different from those in a bookshop. Certainly, you'll find a few by all the currently popular authors, and if you ask, you can  probably get all their stuff. But it's not all sitting there, taking up shelf space to the exclusion of all else. In between one or two blockbusters, there'll be something by someone you've never heard of, or something that came out several years ago that you missed, or something ancient that you've always meant to read. Book heaven!

So, why did we have to go twice? Well, Livia (7), unused to the 'grab as may as you can' ethos of holiday library visits, only took out two books, which she read in two days; Elspeth (13) read until her eyes ached, finishing four books in three days; and Marianne (10), who wasn't with us on the first visits, but for whom I'd taken out the next Harry P, thinking it would take her all week, finished that in two days. And as for me, I'd only gone to pick up a couple of books about keeping chickens, but I was so enthused by the girls' reading frenzy, that when I went back I took four for myself. True to form, I picked something newish I'd never heard of, one I'd not read by a familiar author, one by a columnist I like though I didn't know he wrote fiction, and a classic that had passed me by. They don't have much of a fairy tale selection though...

1 comment:

  1. This is really good. It completly expresses everything. And you're right. Libraries need more fairy tales. xx


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