When I was growing up, the books I read came from the library, and in my blue collar, Chicago neighborhood, the library was a traveling show that parked outside the A & P on Tuesday afternoons.
The grey bookmobile imposed a limit on everything: shelves, books, floor space and number of titles that could be checked out per library card. I think it was five.
At any rate, I was a second grader when I received my first library card and five books were about all I could lug home. Biographies were my favorites. Molly Pitcher. Clara Barton. Betsy Ross. Florence Nightingale. Marie Curie. Burrowing through the pages of those blue, hardcover books I discovered courageous women whose stories were rooted in history and whose feet were firmly planted on the ground. Then I read The Secret Garden and was unmoored. One book opened the window to previously unimagined dreams and possibilities.
Chicago’s original PBS station is identified by the call letters WTTW – Window to the World. Imagine such a thing, a portal to everything that exists outside ourselves. That’s what books are to me: windows that open to the whole lovely world. That’s why I read – to learn what exists outside myself and my known universe, to acquire facts, to discover theories, to hear words put together in magical sequences, to share pain and love and joy.
I write as well, but that’s another story entirely ─ more on that another time.
For now… books.
Books that I have read for my own enjoyment. Books read for book club. Books that my daughters have enjoyed. Books that friends have recommended.
Books as WOWW – Windows that Open to the Whole World.
1940s Bookmobile image from the Chicago Public Library Digital Archives.