Marian the Librarian and Me
Libraries have always been some of my favorite places in the world. Growing up, I lived in Mason City, Iowa, the inspiration for River City, Iowa, the town featured in Meredith Wilson’s famous musical, The Music Man, where Marian the Librarian and rakish con-man Harold Hill danced through the stacks. While employees did not break into song while shelving books, I found my hometown library enthralling. There were puzzles and puppets and story time and uninterrupted hours and hours of browsing through what I loved most. The books. The children’s section was filled with a colorful menagerie of musty scented tales of faraway lands, long ago times, and magical destinations.
Some of the earliest libraries were not free public book lenders but subscription libraries, where only subscribers who paid fees were able to check out books. Thankfully, by the nineteenth century most subscription libraries were replaced with circulation libraries. As a child my family didn’t have a lot of extra money to buy books so the public library was how I got my weekly book fix. I was only limited by the amount of books I was able to carry home by bike or by city bus.
Last week libraries and bibliophiles across the nation celebrated National Library Week and I was also able to take part in the festivities. I had the opportunity to travel to the Bettendorf Public Library in Bettendorf, Iowa to discuss my novels The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden with fellow book lovers. I also visited my local public library and came home with a big stack of books that I couldn’t wait to delve into.
In celebration of our public libraries that play such an integral role in getting books into our children’s hands, make a point to visit your local library. Walk through the stacks with the eyes of a child. Take note of the mind-boggling number of books that are available to anyone with a library card at absolutely no cost. Consider the volumes of knowledge, ideas and creativity that were written years, decades, even centuries ago and have made their way onto pages, in between book covers, and onto the shelves of public libraries, just waiting for us to take them down, open them up and enjoy.
Below is a list of some of my favorite books ~ many of which I discovered for the first time at my local public library.
- Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson – I love historical nonfiction. Manhunt reads like a well-crafted novel.
- Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg – For anyone who ever wanted to take a road trip and fall off the face of the earth for a time, this is the book for you. I caught myself laughing out loud on one page and crying on the next.
- The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas – A touching story of friendship set during The Great Depression. I love every single book written by Sandra Dallas but The Persian Pickle Club is my favorite.
- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett – Patchett can take the most horrific of events and find humanity and beauty within them.
- A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley – This is the first novel I remember reading that was set in Iowa. Smiley captured the beauty of farm country as only someone who has lived here can. Her description of the Iowa landscape and the human condition is powerful and haunting.
- The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling – I declared a personal day of mourning when I learned that Rowling wasn’t going to write anymore Harry Potter books.
- The Hours by Michael Cunningham – This novel takes my breath away. I found myself reading and rereading passages over and over. Genius!
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Read the book then watch the movie – perfect for a rainy day…any day for that matter!
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – Despite all her hardships I wanted to be Francie Nolan!
- My Ántonia by Willa Cather – My all-time favorite book by my all-time favorite author. Cather’s writing is just beautiful. I love the way that she could describe the setting in a novel and it actually seemed to become a character within the story. I reread My Ántonia and O Pioneers every year.