Home is where my books are
My relationship with books
I am one of those people. I am sure you have seen them at cafes and in parks - not to mention on trains and other public transportation systems. You know, those people who have their noses permanently glued to the pages of a book, and will read anywhere.
As a student I even used to bring a book to the supermarket, even though it was a 2 minute walk from the dorm. I started doing that when I came home from there one afternoon and the fire alarm was howling in my building and nobody was allowed in for half an hour.
In this article I want to share with you my love for books and how it started, and tell you about some of my favourite books of all time.
My parents used to call my bedroom The Library. It was filled with books from top to bottom, and I had filled several notebooks with every title I owned: everything from my childhood favourites to the forty-something Agatha Christie books I had inherited from my grandmother, via Nancy Drew, Jane Austen and Stephen King. I used most of my pocket money on books, and my Christmas wish list was filled with them too.
My parents encouraged my love for books and kept feeding it by monthly trips to the county library. I can still remember the smell as we entered the building. The community swimming pool and the school dentist shared the building, so there was a confused smell of books and dust mixed with chlorine and what I would simply call "that waiting room smell". As we walked into the library through the glass doors to the left, however, we put all the scary stuff behind us (I had a fear of water and the dentist) and focused fully on the beautiful sight and smell of books and more books. It was like meditation to me - a happy place where I lost all sense of time and place.
I was determined to become a librarian from the age of nine, and decided to take my role seriously from the beginning. I started a book loan service with book plates, library cards and - of course - a journal dedicated to who borrowed which book.
Okay, even though I'm a grown-up and no longer running my library services, this kit made me drool.
Library pockets, check-out cards, date stamp, a small pencil and an ink pad - everything you need to run your own little library. What a way to encourage in kids a love for books and reading, and to take care of their things. They learn to share and take responsibility, and to be organised. The 9-year-old me would be so excited to have this library kit to help me run my library!
Books, Cats, Life is Good.
~ Edward Gorey
The books of my childhood
My love for reading started when I was little. My Mom would read for my sister and me every night. Not just short children's books with short sentences and colourful photos, but long, proper novels. Our favourite was The Brothers Lionheart by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. Actually, we loved everything by her.
Growing up in Norway meant we were reading a lot of Scandinavian books, but as soon as I started reading on my own I discovered Black Beauty and Robinson Crusoe. I read those books over and over until the librarian asked me if perhaps I wanted to get something else for a change...
Astrid Lindgren is the woman behind the world famous Pippi Longstocking books. This book is as different from that as it gets.
It is a fantasy book of two young brothers who reunite in the afterlife - the idyllic land of Nangiyala, only to find that it is under threat by an evil tyrant.
This book is both sad and touching, and beautifully written. I don't think many Scandinavians go through life without reading it at least once.
Who doesn't know the story of Robinson Crusoe, the sole survivor of a shipwreck who ends up on a deserted island?
I still get goosebumps from both fear and excitement when he discovers strange footprints on the beach after years of solitude...
Two book lovers together
Clearly it was meant to be!
I used to bring books to dates. I wouldn't read in front of the guy I was on a date with, but on the tram and while waiting (I was always early so that I could read for a few minutes first). Sometimes my date would be offended by the sight of a book in my purse - a sign that he was not one of those people who read all the time, and clearly not my kind of man.
Then two years ago I met a man who once lost a flight because he was so into the novel he was reading at the airport that he didn't hear them calling his name over the speakers. Now, that is dedication!
This same man, now my husband, very recently quoted Game of Thrones in a serious job presentation. I'm so proud!
Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.
~ P.J. O'Rourke
I've never been a full-on book snob, but I used to be a book snob wannabe. I would read the great literary classics in public, and the less great, guilty pleasures when no one was watching. I did not want to be seen reading chick-lit, although I secretly enjoyed them immensely.
Now that I am a grown woman (well, grown-ish), I have mostly stopped caring about these things. But I do admit I still find it immensely satisfying to be caught reading something that makes me look clever.
The great literary classics is the safest choice for someone who wants to be seen reading "proper" literature. They can be hard going, though, and some of them I gave up before long. Below I have featured the books I decided to read in public to look intellectual, and that I ended up falling madly in love with.
Ahh, Anna Karenina. I'm glad I read it before it became a major feature film, but if you haven't, it is never too late.
Before I started reading it I was doubtful - it was the thickest book I had ever considered, and it was by a Russian author! Opening the book to its first page on the subway home from the bookstore I felt both proud and intimidated. But before long I was hooked. That was the first time (of many) that I missed my stop and had to walk an extra ten minutes to get home.
I read Jane Eyre for the first time when I was twelve. That time I read it in Norwegian, as I had only been learning English for two years. It became an obsession - one that hasn't faded over the years. I have since read it several times in English and watched every adaptation ever made. I never fail to fall in love with the moody Mr. Rochester or get goosebumps when reading about the scary noises coming from the attic of the old castle. A Gothic classic at its very best!
My favourite rainy day activity
A book is really like a lover. It arranges itself in your life in a way that is beautiful.
~ Maurice Sendak
Shakespeare in good company
I took this photo outside my favourite bookstore of all times - Shakespeare & Company in Paris, France. I have been to Paris six times, and no visit is complete without a trip to this gorgeous English language bookshop. It is situated straight across the river Seine from the famous cathedral Notre Dame (of Hunchback fame).
Many people, myself among them, feel better at the mere sight of a book.
~ Jane Smiley
Carrying on the tradition
In July last year I had the enormous pleasure and privilege of becoming a mum to the most beautiful and alert little baby the world has ever seen (though I may be just a little bit biased here). Already at five months I started reading books to him daily, and now at eight months he reaches for any book he sees and turns his own pages. He loves our reading times, and favourites include the famous children's characters like Spot, Paddington, and Peter Rabbit.
I am so happy to be carrying on the tradition of reading, and I do hope that my son will grow up to not only love reading, but to also know proper paper books. To recognise the smell of them and know the excited feeling of turning a page.