Saturday, August 25, 2007


Books are like friends to me. There are some who are just acquaintances. I'll read them once, set them aside, either grimace from having forced my way to the end or smile contentedly, but never feel the urge to visit them again. Others call me back to them again and again. I settle into their familiar words as I do into the comfy chair across from the fireplace at a friend's house, their plots, characters and scenery as familiar and reassuring as the decorations in the homes of the people I love.

This record heat spell and my wonderful new air conditioning have made this an ideal time to curl up with an old friend. I wanted something exciting and heavy on plot. I wanted something adventurous. I wanted something set in a place far from scorching heat. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander was just the ticket. I first read Outlander over a decade ago. I asked the first bookseller I could find in one of my favorite stores to recommend a literate romance. He snorted and said, "A literate romance!" One of my eyebrows arched up half an inch or so, and in the voice my husband and daughter have learned to dread I responded, "Oh, I see. You've never read Jane Eyre."

A woman who was shopping there laughed and told me she knew just what I needed. She put the book in my hand, and I've been hooked on the series ever since. Though, each progressive novel since Outlander has gotten a little weaker, I've still felt compelled to read each one and follow the love of the gallant, scarred and dashing Jamie (insert the sigh over men in kilts here) and the bold, strong, intelligent accidental time traveller, Claire. Yes, this book and its sisters are indeed friends.

Realizing that books are friends, I had to stop and look at my bookshelves, and the array of personalities I saw there made me laugh. There were some tweedy professors, some giggly girls, some mystics, some cynics, some psychopaths and some equally scary if not quite so amoral scoundrels, a good number of gracious ladies and gentlemen, several fools and idiots, quite a few fonts of wisdom. There were some friends who had reminded me that I could do that, even better than what they had done. Others humbled me with reminders of my limitations.

My taste in books is like my taste in friends. It's eclectic and wide ranging. I like it that way. It's made my life richer and more interesting. I doubt if I'll ever have a deep knowledge of any one genre in literature. Much of what I enjoy reading wouldn't even be called literature by many, but that doesn't matter. I like the breadth of interests my bookshelves reveal about me. My shelves are haphazardly arranged. Lorna Landvik nestles cozily beside Tolkein who leans comfortably upon Linda Ellerbee. Shakespeare and Grisham are both flat on top of my computer hutch, waiting to be properly replaced on a shelf. They don't seem to mind the differences in style in the company they're keeping. I'm pretty lucky in that most of my human friends don't either.

books, friends


Anonymous Rita said...

I love the series by Diana Gabaldon, Outlander is the best! I reread it ever 2 years or so. Jamie, what a man! Great blend of history, romance, herbal lore!

August 26, 2007 6:27 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I am like you when it comes to revisiting your favorites. You can tell mine by looking at my bookshelves. My favorites are grubby, highlighted and tabbed to death. I love using those sticky tabs so I go back and read the best passages without having to re-read the whole book.

August 26, 2007 8:42 AM  
Blogger Loz said...

You can learn a lot about people from the books on their shelves. Great post.

August 26, 2007 11:41 PM  
Blogger redsneakz said...

Unfortunately, I find that for most series, the books do start failing after a while, even the truly great ones like Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Bill Pronzini. The merely good ones, like Janet Evanovich, fade very quickly.

Borders has given up on trying to categorize me. I just bought "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn, "Souls on Fire" by Elie Wiesel, and "QED" by Richard Feynman. :-)

August 30, 2007 2:38 PM  

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