Sunday, March 17, 2019

My Personal Journey Through Bookland

When my friend, Kevin Walsh emailed me to share his latest project "Why I Read Non-Fiction" , a podcast interviewing guests about non-fiction books I was intrigued.  When he followed up to see if I would like to be a guest I was humbled.   I replied back to express interest,  Then he followed up with a phone call and after a brief conversation I was hooked.  After I said yes, he sent me a short questionnaire to prepare for the podcast.   Since this point my brain and ideas began flowing.  

How many of us have family photos of that special moment when you or your child are at either a family or memorable sporting event?  Sure these moments had a role in developing who we are today but let me ask another question, how many of us have taken photos of a child reading a book?  I know I have a few somewhere of our oldest son reading "Good Night Moon" as he started his love for reading at a young age and used to carry this with him everywhere. ( not sure I can find the photo or would post it here).  As we tend to take photos of our kids participation in extracurricular activities shouldn't reading be front and foremost in their development?

To prepare for the podcast, I began a journey through my relationship with books and the impact they have had on my life.  When I was a child,  my Dad always said a good book should be treated like your best friend.  He said to always respect and take utmost care of a book. Writing or bending a page would be equal to defacing a human body with a tattoo to my Dad.  I was shocked in college to see students writing in text books.  

As I began this journey in my head, I started to recollect the many books I read growing up.  Full disclosure, in my formative years I was less enthusiastic about non-fiction than I am today.  As a child of a history teacher (my Dad was as avid Jewish and American historian),  I lived in a home with 24/7 oral history lessons and was thus more drawn to fiction as my escape.  My memory is not as detailed as I hoped so I posted this quest on a Facebook group I am part of to see what non-fiction and fiction books were memorable to my high school classmates.  I also went through my book shelves to  revisit the books I had collected through the years.  

I grew up in a house of books,  When my parents passed away about 3-6 years ago,  my brother and I had the job of cleaning their estate in Florida.  My Dad had accumulated a vast collection of primarily non-fiction books totally over 10,000 spread throughout an 1800 sq ft condo.  Books were on shelves, stacked next to shelves, buried in boxes, under beds and furniture and literally in any empty spot.  

Due to space and costliness it would not be feasible to keep the entire collection that was housed in Florida or move it North where we both live.   I could not go through the process of an estate sale, however,  without doing the Marie Kondo approach to cleaning.  I had to literally go through and look at each book before either deciding to keep it, sell or donate it.  

Donate: We tried to donate as much as feasible but were turned down by many a museum or non-profit who either lacked space or funding to pay for shipping.   We donated a collection of books to the St. Petersburg Florida Holocaust Museum as we felt these would be shared and put to good use.     
Sell: There were many typical Barnes & Nobles type books that we sold to a local storefront for a fixed amount per book due to the size and volume.   Some coffee table and nicer books we sold as part of an actual estate sale.     
Keep: As I went through the books I put together my own collection that I would ship home, as did my brother and my son.  There were certain collections we agreed to keep in the family to pass on to future generations.  Then there were the random books of interest.  We ended up keeping at most about a tenth of the collection between the three of us.  

Many of the books I chose to keep were books that were cherished by my parents or would fill a void of the lessons my Dad shared orally while I was young and now yearn to learn more about as an adult. I ended up keeping many of the Jewish history books of periods I didn't recall paying attention to.  The same goes to many of his U.S. History collection.   It took me close to 18 months to go through the collection and I did box many to go through now at home. 

As I have begun to morph my own collection and reflect on their significance I would write and go on for hours.  I think the main revelation that has emerged in my mind is the wealth of knowledge and ideas that books provide us.  Each book I have kept has important relevance to my life.  I learn bits and pieces about human nature and key values in each one that I read that I believe reflect who I am as a person.  As an adult now,  many of the newer non-fiction books span the history of my lifetime.  Reading these allows me to learn what others experienced in contrast to my more limited perspective in a suburban middle class community.  

As stated before I read mostly fiction in my younger days.  At that point I was surrounded by a generation of relatives who tended to dwell more in the past and I was ready to progress towards newer ideas.  Perhaps reading non-fiction I felt would keep me less relevant in a rapidly changing world of the 60s and 70s.  I now know this was the wrong perspective.  

Each one of us has a story to tell.  I often volunteer at the local Council of Aging and want to converse when seniors share their history.   Sadly of late,  even at funerals I listen and learn so much about a person during the eulogy.  Reading non-fiction is a vital piece of the human puzzle.  I particularly enjoy reading memoirs and historic fiction these days and look forward to reading whenever I can.  To me reading is like taking a vacation in my head where I can be transported into new worlds and ideas beyond the day to day routines.  I will go into a bookstore or log on to my kindle app to buy a bookclub book, only to find myself discovering many other books I also end up buying.  The more I read the more I quest to learn more about human nature.  

I am thankful for Kevin's invitation and the opportunity to be allowed to go back through my memory bank of books.    For my podcast interview I have spent the last week reflecting on the many books I have read and compiled a list of new non-fiction books I want to read.  This process has been a wonderful exercise for me and I liken it to revisiting my favorite vacation spots and planning my next ones.  The list keeps growing and thus I am glad summer is approaching.   My favorite summer routine is to read on the beach at Cape Cod.  

I am excited to be part of the new pod-cast and to listen to other avid readers share their viewpoints on reading non-fiction.  I will update this blog with information on how you can also listen to the podcast when it is available.

Wendy is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Needham.  She loves to help and meet new people.  As mentioned above she is an avid reader.  She also loves the arts and travel.   She hopes you will listen to the podcast and visit her website to learn more about her services.

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