Before leaving Denver for NY, I logged onto my hometown library’s website and put a handful of books on hold. The selections were willy-nilly and random–some were books I’ve had on hold at DPL for a long time (like Warren Buffet’s Snowball) while others were selected impulsively after reading a review here or receiving a suggestion there. My planning was rewarded by a large stack of possibilities waiting for me in Caz.
I picked up Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, first, partially because it had one of the earlier due dates and mostly because it was about Barcelona–location of our honeymoon and location of my upcoming Spanish classes. Place of Magic.
In my first week and half at home, I read Help, by Kathryn Stockett and The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. My random selection methodology apparently worked, for I loved all three.
Worth noting here, however, is a theme that runs through all three–the power of reading and books to heal, save, and transform. By the second book, Help, I realized the random order I had chosen wasn’t so random at all, and then decided to round out the trilogy of book love with The Book Thief. The books are set in different time periods (post-civil war Spain; Civil Rights era Jackson, MI; and a suburb of Munich during early WWII). Each also displays different strengths: A feeling of being transported by the mysterious setting and magicalness of the details in Shadow; a slice of southern life seen through the eyes and voice of the black maids in Help; and the creative brilliance of the storytelling in The Book Thief. Still, books play a critical role–really as their own character–in each novel. I like this idea of devoting a book to celebrate the magic of all books.
Fast forward to today. I volunteered at Caz’s annual Library Book Sale. There were a couple garbage bags of books dropped off that we were keeping under the cashier table. A couple of boys, maybe ages 7 and 10, came over and asked if they could look through the bags. They started scavenging, quickly scanning the backs and making piles of ones to buy. More kids drifted over and soon it was like a well-behaved, mop-headed swarm of bees. I’ve been cynical lately, about the pervasiveness of media, about the entitlement of youth, about the negative impacts of technology. But today reminded me that the spirit of the book thief, the passion of the old Barcelona book collector, and Aibileen’s courage can still be found, and the books we read may serve as the looking glass.