Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The big warm web of books

Each year his school holds a two-day event at the store where kids read favorite books requested by the teachers. I love that he's learned that we each play a role in the big warm web of books: choosing, giving, reading, writing.

Laurent Dubois, My Bookstore

Laurent Dubois, who has written books about Haiti and soccer, is among the contributors to My Bookstore, in which writers discuss their favorite places to buy books. His choice is The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, N.C., where he often goes with his son, Anton, nine-years-old when the essay was written.

Both Dubois and his wife may be writers, and thus readers, but he credits The Regulator with welcoming Anton into what he calls "the big warm web of books." I do love that phrase. It speaks of the connections that unite writers and readers, who desperately need each other, as well as booksellers, publishers, librarians, cover illustrators and probably others as well.

Similar connections could be found for virtually any product you might name, such as movies, furniture, food and laundry detergent. Those who consume the product need those who provide the product, and vice versa. But rarely are those other "webs" as warm as the one involving books. Book people, real book people like young Anton, share a passion, not just an interest or a need.

Dubois describes our roles in this web of books as choosing, giving, reading and writing. Each is something each of us, at least each of us who share the passion, can do. Yes, even writing. We may never write a book, but we can write about books. That's what I do in this blog. Others may post reviews on Amazon, LibraryThing or wherever. We can describe our reactions to things we read in our e-mails to friends. Students like Anton write about books in their school essays. Before I began reviewing books back in the early 1970s, I kept a notebook in which I recorded my thoughts about the books I read. I have always found that writing about books helps me understand them better and appreciate them more.

As for choosing and giving, those are something many of us do, especially at this time of year. Rare is the Christmas when I do not give at least one book to a loved one, and usually more. Giving a book requires thoughtful choosing. Often the books we give say more about us than they do those we give the books to. If a friend loves those Chicken Soup books, maybe that's what we should give, not that novel we loved but which the friend may never read. I gave a couple of gift cards this year. Let the readers in my family choose their own books. That's my own ideal Christmas present.

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