When my younger two children were growing up, our entire family loved books. We waited in anticipation at birthdays and holidays for the packages that arrived from my brother and sister-in-law; Phd Book-lovers who frequented the best bookstores. Whether delivered by UPS or US Mail, we sighed in contentment when the box was opened and we could tell by the unmistakable shape of the package inside, “Ah, it’s a book!”
You will understand my delight last fall, when a representative of WaterBrook Press contacted me via facebook. In return for my mailing address, she promised to send me a book. I was happy to make the trade. I trust Waterbrook. I know the propensity of publishers to move out overstock of good, but less popular, authors via giving promo books away.
When the book arrived at my Colorado home of record, I was in transition to the Northwest, living in one room at my cousin’s home in Shoreline, WA. Having in my possession only such essentials as I could fit into a 1994 Subaru Legacy, my daily pilgrimage became the Richmond Beach Library two blocks away. There I conducted my internet errands and became a regular on the waiting lists for the best books.
My mother dutifully contacted me when she received the package from WaterBrook Press. Since I am an aspiring writer, she treats packets from publishers as priorities. “Open it,” I directed, “I think it is a book that I won. If so, go ahead and read it and keep it there in storage. I’ll pick it up later with the rest of my belongings.”
Ah, it was a book! It would have to wait until I retrieved my belongings from storage.
Life is short: re-read only the best books
The best books are books you re-read over and over again. I adopted this description of a good book from Sheldon Vanauken, acquaintance of C.S. Lewis, after reading his book, A Severe Mercy.
I have a handful of books that I re-read often, for various reasons:
2) Daily recreation and restoration, encouragement
3) Knowledge and instruction, clarity
4) Insight into human nature, understanding
5) Vicarious adventure, travel, history
One box of such books came with me in the over laden Subaru. The box was marked, “Essentials,” and it included all my books by C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Tolkien; Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; Blue Like Jazz; The Shack, and five DVDs that have marked my life (also for the reasons listed above). The book I return to over and over again for comfort and clarity is George MacDonald’s, The Marquis’ Secret. In it I find a portrait of courage, confidence and assurance of destiny, which I aim to emulate.
I have a relationship with a book
Susan Meissner’s latest book, “Lady in Waiting,” moved to my essential, must re-read, list at precisely page 96. That was the page at which I reached for a pen to underline a descriptive phrase and remembered just in time that my book belonged to the library. I didn’t want to return the book. I wanted to have a relationship with that book. Although I am a fast reader and the book is a page turner, I kept it for the full three weeks; re-reading chapters every night. My need was so great, it never occurred to me to return it quickly for the benefit of those other readers on the waiting list (I waited three months for my turn).
I deposited Lady in Waiting in the library drop box while in route to my new apartment with my first load of belongings. Since I commute to a full time job five days a week, it took several days for me to settle in. As my second weekend approached, I began to long for a reliably good book. Several times I headed to my computer to place an online order; an order for a book I could read and underline and have a relationship with. Repeatedly, I was distracted by some other detail to attend to in preparation for my parents’ short notice arrival that weekend.
After a weekend full of relatives, when my parents had gone to their lodging for the night on Sunday, I was in need of re-centering and refreshment for the upcoming week. I once again cast about for just the right thing to read, regretting that I had not visited a bookstore or carried through with my online ordering.
My eyes fell on the basket of collected miscellaneous mail Mom brought with her. Tucked between the junk mail and magazines that I had not asked for was a padded envelope from WaterBrook Press. “It’s a book,” I thought with joy.
Imagine my, more wonderful than fiction, amazement and gratitude when the book that slid from the packet was Susan Meissner’s Lady in Waiting.
Thank you, Susan; and thank you, WaterBrook; for facilitating this reminder that God cares about the very little details of my life; that we always have choices; that God gives the desire of our hearts.