The long, hot month of July has flown by in a blur of constant activity. Summertime is when we are busiest in the library, preparing for a new year by processing new books and new members, consulting with moms to help them prepare for the coming school year, and recording podcasts for the fall. I chuckle at the thought of long, lazy summer days. If I took books out of each day, each activity, there truly would have been little to do with the time.
If this is true of July, it is absolutely true of my entire life. Without the nourishment of books and the inexhaustible myriad ideas that have fertilized and sustained my heart and mind, I shudder to think what life would look like.
It is a good and right habit to pause and look backward on a regular basis, not just to mark progress, but more in order to give thanks. In our typical forward momentum, we tend to easily forget the beauty of the path we’ve just walked, the one that is leading us to where we don’t know we’re going. For me, books have marked every turn and pointed the direction all along the way.
The following books took place in the past, and some of them were looking backward too.
Just noting the books I finished this month, a fraction of those I spent time in, they each took me back to another time, either childhood remembrance or to the lives of men and women centuries ago. I realize this helps me keep my balance when life is all seeming preparation for what’s next, gives a certain stabilizing perspective and counterpoint to the present.
Shadrach by Meindert DeJong
One of my most beloved children’s authors tells the story of a small boy in Holland whose life is transformed by the promise of a little black rabbit. Suddenly, his every thought is the anticipation of this pet and making preparation for it. DeJong is incredibly gifted at capturing the thinking of children. This is a chapter book that is perfect for four to eight year olds. He exquisitely captures the thinking and behavior of children; he has not forgotten what it is to long for something as only a young boy can long, and the consuming passionate love a boy can have for his own animal. The simplicity of DeJong’s writing that pictures family life of days gone by is poignant. For adults, his books are good medicine to help us treat our big person fears, obsessions, and preoccupations. In the heart of a little boy, our own heart remembers what is most important in life. I learned, or remembered, many valuable lessons I still need to be learning. This book was a treat.
The Black Moon by Winston Graham
I also had forgotten what a treat it is to enter another family and suffer and enjoy along with them all the trials and triumphs of daily life 200 years ago. Graham originally wrote the first four novels in his family saga with no intention of going further with it, but after a foray into detective and modern novels, he returned to the Poldarks to add eight more. This novel covers a dark patch in their road of life, which most of our lives travel through at one time or another.
The Four Swans by Winston Graham
Once I finish one Poldark, I cannot resist plowing right into the next. They definitely pull you along, though any individual book could be a self-contained story. I had read this one before, but it was as good or better than the first time.
The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott
For some reason, this was one of the easiest to follow of all the Scott novels I have read. It is the dramatic retelling of an old Scottish legend, full of the usual intrigue, revenge, romance, and tragedy Scott is so gifted at portraying. If his novels intimidate you, this is a good one to try; if you love his novels, you probably have already read this one. Old or new, novels instruct us, mostly because human nature does not change, and our desire to understand ourselves is constant too.
For the joy of reading,