Books about Books

We love the idea that exists behind the creation of a bookstore.  Where else can people of all ages and backgrounds find so many well-placed words, written or typed or sketched or colored on pieces of paper of every size and shape and color and texture, from so many gifted writers and illustrators producing the most imaginative works and artwork on the planet?

Books on Books

At this moment, my favorite shelf in the bookstore is the one titled ‘Reading’ or ‘Books about Books.’ The first book I ever bought from this particular shelf, about 10 years ago, was How to Read a Book:  The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren (Touchstone, 1940).  At the time, a buddy of mine was challenging himself to read all of the great works of literature and he kept noticing that Adler’s name popped up in nearly all of the commentaries about these classic works so he did some searching and there it was – Adler’s most enduring work, How to Read a Book.  My friend described this book with such enthusiasm that I decided I couldn’t live without it and made the purchase within that very week. At our local bookstore, I had no sooner sat down in their awesome row of movie theater chairs to begin reading my purchase when a person walking by noticed its cover and quipped, “Now I’ve seen it all.  A book about how to read a book.”  We both shared a laugh as he walked over and picked up the same book!  Mortimer Adler would have been one proud author.

Today on that “Books about Books” shelf we bought Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book (2009, Roaring Book Press) by Anita Silvey.  It is a massive coffee-table size work that seeks to answer the question, “What children’s book changed the way you see the world?” Asking more than a hundred leaders (from actors and singers to financiers, athletes, world leaders, and teachers), this is a book full of great illustrations, classic book covers and wisdom beyond its pages.

Her question though, “What children’s book changed the way you see the world?,” has had me thinking and asking my own friends and family to tell me about their experiences with the books from their childhood.  There are a particular handful that stand out in my own answer to that question – The Hardy Boys series, Where the Wild Things Are, Pinocchio, The Snowy Day, Make Way for Ducklings, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, Harry the Dirty Dog, The Story of Ferdinand, The Ghost of Windy Hill, The Indian in the Cupboard, Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Superfudge, Ralph S. Mouse, A Wrinkle in Time, Farmer Boy, Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, Bridge to Terabithia, Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator, and The Toothpaste Millionaire.

So here’s the “Book about Books” question for your dinner table tonight or bedtime with the kids – what’s that one book that YOU will never forget?  And if you haven’t yet read it or at least described it to your children, start now and let that same story impact their lives because when it comes to raising kids, there is just no time like the present!