I Cannot Live without Books


I think Thomas Jefferson said it for many of us when he said, “I cannot live without books.” He owned one of the most extensive private libraries in the United States and read every book he owned. Then he contributed his entire collection to get the University of Virginia library off to a good start. After that, he started building his own home library all over again. No wonder the souvenir shop at Jefferson’s home, Monticello, sells t-shirts with that saying on it.

I can still picture several of the children’s books I read at a very early age. And I’ll never forget favorites like Ben & Me and the multiple books in the Doctor Doolittle series. And later when I fell in love with Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Alice in Wonderland. As a preteen I started reading science fiction.

When my grandmother died, I had the pick of some of the books in her collection. Even though Tom Swift was out of fashion by then, he still fascinated me.

One of the most astounding things about my childhood and teen reading is the fact that I was never introduced to Charlotte’s Web or any of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series. Fortunately, adulthood has made up for those lacks.

In college I had to do so much reading for my classes that I didn’t have time to read for pleasure, but when I started teaching school and got involved in handling book orders for my students, I fell in love with some of the books they were reading. The Pigman is one of the most interesting of those.

As a senior in college, I’d taken a contemporary fiction class that introduced me to John Barth’s The Floating Opera. Little did I know I’d end up living and teaching in the town that book takes place in, much less the same neighborhood.

I had several favorite authors in my mid-adult years (in addition to John Barth). Especially James Michener, who lived in the area while writing Chesapeake. My ex- got to meet him (at his home at that!),  but at least she was able to introduce me to Mrs. Michener once while out shopping. Nice, but not the same.

I still own nearly all of his books. I have no desire to reread any of them, but I can’t bare to part with my collection, either.

Another favorite was Nevil Shute, who was best known for On the Beach and A Town Like Alice.

I’d be hard-pressed to tell you my favorite authors and books now. I have too many. Not only do we have three or four bookcases filled mostly with fiction, the one in the living room is double-stacked (i.e., one row in front of another).

You said it, Mr. Jefferson. I cannot live without books.

What are your favorites, past or present? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: I’ve only talked about fiction today. But the Bible is by far the most important book I’ve read and continue to read.


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“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

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