Book Ambitions

I found this Beverly Cleary book in one of my children’s bookcases last night. I was helping my daughter find a new book to read. She suffers from the same affliction as I did at her age – voracious reading. When she gets desperate for reading material, she will sometimes be willing to read books from my childhood. Written onto the paperback cover of this book and taped to the first page were evidence of my earliest desire to do something with books. This message from my younger self prompted me to finally start this website and blog.

Spelling was clearly not my forte at age 6 or 7. However, the attempt to form my own library out of my books and then create a lending system for my family tells the larger story of my childhood. Books weren’t just for reading. Books were good friends. I remember wanting to have them around, care for them, and share them with other readers. I remember self-assigning book reports outside of school so that I would have an excuse to use the encyclopedias.

Since childhood, many of my scholarly pursuits have at their core been about finding creative ways to get closer to books.  I have had some remarkable experiences in the world of bound paper and ink.

There is a tale of rescuing a fabulous, rare collection of 1950s and 60s Théâtre Ouvert plays and other French books from the attic of my small college that had been forgotten by a former professor who had passed away. There is my research at the Bibliothèque Nationale and Les Archives in Paris and at the University of Bourgogne in Dijon. There is also a story of my first venture into the Widener Library at Harvard University. There are tales of explorations of book stores and conversations with book sellers and collectors, book binders, rare book librarians, conservationists, printers, book artists, and other bibliophiles. I hope to recount some of these stories here as I try to narrow down the focus of my own work and purpose in a life filled with books.

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