Blog 36 image reading with Glenna, April 1990

Yoo-hoo, anybody out there? I’m posting this on Black Friday. If you’re out shopping, I hope you’ll read this in time to consider my gift-giving advice.

Our culture shifts ever more quickly and I believe it’s high time to dig in our collective heels and keep books- -the kind made with paper, etc.- -in the mix.

E-books, of course, are a wonderful thing. They can’t be beat for saving trees and I know the next time we move I’ll be fretting about the tons of books we’ll be boxing up and schlepping to the moving van (at forty cents a pound).

Still, it’s hard to deny the sensory pleasures of traditionally produced books. Last Saturday I was doing a book signing at The Sequel book store in Enumclaw, WA. The event coincided with the Fall Wine Walk, and hundreds of people came and went, commemorative wine glasses and tasting tickets in hand. My station was near the door. Many times new arrivals paused on the threshold, sniffed the air and exclaimed, “Books! I love the smell of books!” I have never heard anyone say, “I love the smell of my Kindle!”

Cover art is calculated to attract the eye. The heft of a volume and the texture of thick paper stock is pleasing to the touch. How long has it been since you’ve read an antique book that’s bound in leather, with gilt-edged pages and decorative end papers? But I digress. What I think is truly important about physical books, whether paperback or hardback, is their relative permanence. Think back to when you were a child, about a favorite book with really good illustrations that you took off the shelf again and again to re-experience the story of- -The Velveteen Rabbit? Alice in Wonderland? Eloise? Remember the time before you knew how to read and someone read to you? Did you ever give your own copy of a favorite childhood book to a young relative, that bittersweet moment of sharing, sacrifice and the hope of building a cultural bridge to the next generation?

In the age of Internet shopping books are easier to buy than ever, but don’t forget the brick and mortar stores. I faithfully apportion part of my holiday gift shopping to local independent book stores. Often the hot new best sellers are available at a discount, and used book stores offer a great variety of titles that can be hard to find. And here’s another bonus- -no extra charges for shipping!

If money is extremely tight, you can still share quality “read out loud” time with the young (or even old) ones in your life. Check your local library for titles of interest. If what you’re looking for isn’t in their stacks, recommend it for future purchase. If you’re feeling flush, consider donating funds for new acquisitions.

I can’t resist sharing a couple of my favorites for engaging pre-readers and very young readers. “The Dirty Cowboy” by Amy Timberlake, pictures by Adam Rex, and “May Finds Her Way: The Story of an Iditarod Sled Dog” by Betty Selakovich Casey. To make the gift complete, take the time to read and enjoy these books with the recipients. I have a hunch you’ll end up on the receiving end, too.

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