For the Love of Books
A suggestion as to what gift to buy for Valentine’s Day:
“A Velocity of Being: Illustrated Letters to Children about Why We Read by 121 of the Most Inspiring Humans in Our World,” Edited by Maria Popova and Claudia Zoe Bedrick
This is a book of letters, along with corresponding art work, that sends messages to children of today and of the future, to express why we read, and what books can do for the human spirit. I don’t know who would love this book more – those who love love love books! Or those who love sharing books with others. I have recommended this book to several book-reading friends, all of whom have loved it. You can pick it up at any time and flip through it, and it will lift your spirits. I have randomly placed here a few beginning quotes from the letters in the book – you will be surprised at the power and depth of the quotes.
It is important to note that the writers of the “letters” and the artists who drew the corresponding pictures are well known people. They are a wide-ranging diversity of the People Who Loved Books: including Jane Goodall, Yo-Yo Ma, Jacqueline Woodson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mary Oliver, Neil Gaiman, Elizabeth Gilbert, Shonda Rhimes, Richard Branson, Marina Abramović, Judy Blume, a 98-year-old Holocaust survivor, Italy’s first woman in space, and more.
It took the author eight years to complete the project. The author stated: “Because this project was born of a deep concern for the future of books and a love of literature as a pillar of democratic society, we are donating 100% of proceeds from the book to the New York public library system in gratitude for their noble work in stewarding literature and democratizing access to the written record of human experience.”
Popva says that some of her happiest memories were of reading with her grandmother who had an enormous library of classical literature, including twentieth-century novels. She also had various encyclopedias – yes, people actually read through them! I remember when my in-laws bought a set of Britannica Encyclopedias for my kids. We tore open the box, and then we all sat in the room, grabbed a volume and read and read, and shared and shared. It was a glorious moment.
The author has a long Introduction, which goes through her “life with books,” highlighting times where she shared “ardor for the written word” or “took solace in its beauty,” or, more recently, formed friendships and bonds while conducting this labor of love.
To connect this book to Lyons, I have incorporated some of Lyons Art-Trading-Cards members’ cards that depict “books.” The group has been meeting at the Lyons Library for many years, started by past librarian Merlyn Williams, and now guided by Phyllis O’Rourke. I showed them the book in 2018, when it first came out, because the images inside reminded me of our little 3.5 x 2.5 inch cards; and they loved it. (ATC are original pieces of art that are traded among members at monthly meetings. There are ATC groups around the world.)
“Sometimes big ugly stuff happens to the people you love and running away doesn’t really work. Sadness follows you around like a hungry dog who wont leave you alone till you pay attention to it.” By Lurel Braitman (author, hisotria, and anthropologist of science) P. 106
“Dear Readers, here’s why I read: I got to travel the rainy dark streets of London,… The sultry bayou’s, the exploding cosmos, I banished demons, I felt unexpected things for pigs, And Spiders, I stopped being lonely, I met myself everywhere…” by Eve Ensler (Tony Award winning playwright, performer, active it is and author) p. 128
“If all has gone according to plan, you’re reading this letter in a book. It’s with you wherever you are—a quiet room, a subway, or a bus. If you’re reading on a bus—I truly envy you. I never mastered reading in a moving vehicle… I’m writing to you only a few days after an old bookstore I really liked closed is doors forever…” by Regina Spektor (singer-songwriter and pianist) p. 186
“Don’t let anyone tell you reading makes you antisocial. That’s what my grandmother said when I was young. I was an extreme case, bringing books with me everywhere… she thought I should play more with the other kids. What she didn’t get was that reading WAS play. I made some of my best friends in books… it taught me that there were people who felt and thought as I did…and even more important, that there were people who would never think and feel as I did…” by David L. Ulin (2015 Guggenheim Fellow, and author/editor of many books).