Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Smell of a Good Library

I have a thing about my feet and books. I guess it's my view when I'm reading, so why not.

I have a thing about my feet and books. I guess it’s my view when I’m reading, so why not.

My library card and I have become friends. Great friends. I’ve discovered the calming effect a library can have on you when your life becomes hectic — there’s nothing quite like the forced quiet of a library. You can comb the stacks, with an idea of what you want or not. But you know you’ll find friends there. You’ll find stories, you’ll find a book to take home with you and curl up with at night.

I love the library. Especially the Jefferson-Madison Library in Charlottesville: it’s beautiful with the pillars and marble, all shaded by giant trees. It seems quiet even on the outside, even though cars and people walk outside it constantly. Inside it’s huge, with a lofty ceiling and of course stacks and stacks of books rimming the staircase in the center. It’s incredibly peaceful.

I think what I love about the library, is that I often read on my short half-hour lunch breaks at work. It’s always busy with people coming in and out, sometimes my female co-workers catch up on their Bollywood soap operas on the staff computers. It’s noisy. Not conducive to diving fully into a book.

People seem to have this idea that it’s appropriate to walk up to a person who is reading and ask them what they’re reading. You know what’s funny about reading? Unless I’m conducting story time, it’s really an individual activity.

So for these reasons, I enjoy the library. Everyone has to be quiet. I could stay there for ever and be left alone the whole time. Also the ladies who work at the front call me sweetie and are very polite. I like that. Maybe if we all spent more time in a library we would get along?

This library thing is a new love. I’ve written about my slow readingĀ before, and I’m happy to report I am zipping through books like the pages are burning up on me. I finished The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women in Islam about three weeks ago, and last week turned the last page of Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil.

The Caged Virgin was serious, poignant and informative. I had some critiques: Ayaan Hirsi Ali has an agenda, and she makes it known. I felt the impact of the book could have been stronger if she had left a lot of her political aspirations and party policy out of it. I don’t think it needed it. She made her points, and they were strong. She provided her opinion, which was necessary, and she even provided possible solutions for the future. I recommend the book, but I do so with the suggestion that you read it and take it with a grain of salt. Some of the things she wrote about were horrifying, especially as she detailed her experiences as an interpreter.

Kabul Beauty School was a much easier read. It detailed a lot of what Hirsi Ali built for me, but did so through the fresh eyes of a vibrant, middle-aged American hairdresser named Deborah Rodriquez. I learned afterward that the somewhat happy ending that the book had, if you can call it that, was shattered years later and the school is no longer in Deborah’s hands. Not to mention the girls are upset with her because their stories became public and they were not adequately protected. Sigh.

So today I went to the library again, returned my old books and brought a stack of three home with me. Ambitious, I know! I couldn’t help myself though. I had myself convinced that if I didn’t take them with me this time, someone else might take them, and I’d never get a chance to read them. Or I might forget about them, and I simply had to have them inside of my brain. Makes all kinds of sense, right?

Today I took home The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World One Correction at a Time, Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness and War, Women and the News: How Female Journalists Won the Battle to Cover World War II. I think I see a chair outside in the wonderful Virginia humidity, a cocktail and the crack of a book spine in my very near future.

While at the cabin a few weeks ago, I joked to Josh’s Dad that I just discovered libraries. He assumed I meant they didn’t have them in Canada, and obviously, laughter followed. Nah, Canadians have libraries too, however I never spent time in them unless I was forced to by a teacher or trying to help Ally find reference books while she was at the University of Calgary.

Now, my library love is individual, voluntary and very much cathartic.


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