I believe in books – and in the power of their words. Those words can connect us, enlighten us, help us understand ourselves and others, and show us the world and our place in it.
I work as a librarian on a fifth grade campus and have also worked in a small public library. I have had the opportunity to share the power of words with people of all ages. That opportunity is largely responsible for the gratitude I feel each day for my job. I love watching eyes light up when I place a sought-after book in the hands of one of my students. A good book recommendation is like a gift, and I am deeply satisfied by being able to help my patrons find just the right book that they need or want. Books make a difference in lives and I am privileged to be part of the connection between books and their people.
I have also experienced the power of words in books personally. I am happiest when I have a good book (or two or three!) to read. I guard my time jealously then (“Oh, I hope the phone isn’t for me!”); I read while I cook; my housework suffers. Conversations with my family and friends often begin with “What are you reading?” Books are part of my memories of the important events in my life – babies being born, vacation trips, illnesses, deaths – and they are an essential part of every day. Author Michael Cadnum expressed my feelings perfectly when he said that reading is a “quietly joyful act” and called books “green secrets”.
To me, the power of books lies in the particular words and phrases that strike a chord within. I collect them – those words and phrases, bits of conversation between characters that turn on the “Aha!” bulb. “That is exactly the way I feel”, or “Oh, I never thought of it that way”, I will think and another piece of the puzzle that is life moves into place. C. S. Lewis said, “We read to know that we are not alone.” My much-loved mother endured Alzheimer’s for many years, and when I read the phrase “the long good-bye”, I felt as if someone knew my situation and it helped. Sidda, in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, expresses the mysteries of family life this way, “The point is not knowing another person, or learning to love another person. The point is simply this: how tender can we bear to be? What good manners can we show as we welcome ourselves and others into our hearts?” Isak Dinesen spoke straight to my concerns about whether or not we leave some kind of mark on the world: “If I know a song of Africa …, does Africa know a song of me? Would the air over the plain quiver with a colour that I had had on,…or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me…?” I have a notebook full of examples – words from books that have spoken powerfully to me, taught me about myself and life, furthered me in my journey – all evidence of the power of words.
Cadnum, Michael. Heat. New York: Viking, c1998. (from “Back Matter”)
Dinesen, Isak. Out of Africa. New York: Crown Publishers, c1985.
Wells, Rebecca. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. New York: HarperCollins,
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