Tuesday, 3 September 2013
Week 9: the book
I have to rank this as one of the best gift ideas ever. Over her lifetime, Grandma has built up a library of books that she's found entertaining, inspiring and enlivening. Some of my earliest memories of our time together involve perching on my bedroom floor, talking about the titles we each had on the go. Our mutual love of reading and the book-based chat helped strip away our differences in age and physical disability (she's had MS since her 30s). Now, when I read the tales she's given to me or recommended over the years, my memories of Grandma are indelibly woven into the texture of the story.
It was Cicero who said that "A home without books is like a body without a soul". And if I'm spouting forth about a book that I love, I feel as though I'm baring my soul in a way I imagine people born and raised in politics feel when discussing their worldview. Events from the past, the physical environment and encounters with other people are all seen through the filter of literature; if all memory is fiction, then a good book can have as much - if not more - resonance than something that actually happened. Some bits of my memory can be a bit shady, but if I want to try and remember how I was feeling - say - the year I moved to London, it helps to reach for the book I was reading at the time (unfortunately, it was Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. Not ideal for a country girl bedazzled by the grime, poverty and chaos of Hackney Central).
Unsurprisingly, I'm part of a book group. And one of my fellow literary acolytes recently told me about BookMooch, which she's been using successfully for a few years. It's a bit like an online version of those cafes where you're allowed to take a book home, so long as you leave one of your own on the shelf for others to enjoy. With BookMooch, you advertise the titles you want to give away, and earn points from sending them out. You can exchange your points for books that others want to give away. Simple.
So this week, my gift was a copy of Charles Dickens: a Life, by Claire Tomalin. It's a great book, and I'm hanging onto a copy for re-reading; but I was recently given a brand-new duplicate as a present. My spare has been sent out into the BookMooch ether, and I'm looking forward to mooching back a title that will (hopefully) help pad out my memory for the next year or so.
Now, where did I put that pencil.....
Disclaimer: I'm not in the pay of BookMooch. I just think it's a grand idea.