Without Books

Left to my own preferences in books, I would read nonfiction, mysteries, historical fiction, and realistic literary fiction. My Classics Book Club at Oak Grove Library sometimes pushes me out of my comfort zone as it has with our last selection of Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury’s book, whose title is based on his perception of the temperature at which a book will self-combust, conjures up some thought-provoking ideas.

The question in a community where firemen burn houses that are found to contain books is, “Do you know why books are hated and feared?” The provocative answer is that they show the pores in life. This book is not really about censorship but about experiencing all of life. He started me thinking of important things – and some not so important that I would have missed without books.

I often need Anne Frank’s reminder from her diary, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”

I learned during my gazillion readings of Little Women, that Jo’s loneliness even as she shares the happiness in a family crowd, can bring as many tears as the death of her beloved sister Beth. [I cry over books more often than movies and probably more than in real life, sometimes to the point of having to gain control before I can finish reading.]

From Mr. Gilbreth’s autocratic rule of the family dinner table in Cheaper by the Dozen which I read aloud to my junior high students, we learned the phrase “Not of general interest,” which he used to squelch any topic he did not want discussed. Consequently, they knew when I said, “Not of general interest,” that they had strayed too far from the English class topic – and probably pictured me as the autocrat!

I’ve learned good timing from Richard Peck in The Teacher’s Funeral, “If your teacher has to die, August isn’t a bad time of year for it.”

Even without being a cat lover, my heart learned compassion as Kathi Apelt began The Underneath, “There is nothing lonelier than a cat who has been loved, at least for a while, and then abandoned by the side of the road.”

Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends gives what must be the scientific reason that “You’ll see catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you’re born you’re never gonna see no Unicorn.”

In When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt, I learned in the first sentence that “Nothing ever happens in Antler, Texas,” but then something did.

And who knows, if it hadn’t been for the good advice from Mo Willems, I might have let that crazy pigeon drive the bus!

I think Ray Bradbury is right. Books show us the pores, the real, in life and lead us to see everything from beauty to pain to laughter in the everyday. So far I’ve enjoyed the trips beyond my comfort zone brought on by this book club and some of the books visited for the first time or reread that fit in with my own preferences. I can’t wait to enjoy again next month’s selection of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But let me say for sure that if Moby Dick is ever on our list, I’m outta’ here – at least for that month.