Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Favorites: Volumes I Hold Dear - by Louise Tripp

A book – the actual physical object. New models have tried to replace it. The Kindle, as cool as it may be, will just never hold a candle to the real thing. Crinkly new or musty yellowed pages; the scent of ink; the feel of it in your hands and the option of making it your own – highlighting phrases, beloved lines; notes in the margins.
Even people who don't read much (and thus, should be very, very ashamed – heh, kidding) have books they remember fondly. Books that they might even keep around for some reason – nostalgia, posterity, maybe even just to look more intelligent.

The books I own vary in meaning to me. Some of my most cherished ones have been signed – either by their authors, whom I've worshiped the way that some people do rock stars, or by friends or family, tokens of love and appreciation from those who have meant a great deal to me at different stages of my life. Here, I wanted to share the kept volumes that mean the most to me.

My copies of Little Women and Heidi were given to me by my nana, who passed away when I was fourteen. A former math teacher and seamstress, she always stressed the importance of books and stories.

The copy of The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore that adorns my shelf is fairly new, having been bought by my mom in December, 1997 – the winter before she died. I can't be certain why she felt the impulse to buy a children's book, but I assume it was the same reason that I occasionally buy new copies of the books I loved as a child. In the front, she wrote her name and the date.

My younger brother gave me Charlotte's Web on my 10th birthday, drawing a fat pink birthday cake with ten candles on the inside cover. A piece of the book's cover has since been ripped off and I have no recollection of how that happened. But I still love this copy of the E.B. White classic for the fact that my sibling, very young at the time, was already so thoughtful.

When I became obsessed with Sylvia Plath's life and poetry in a community college English class, my best friend at the time gave me a nifty, green-and-gray hardcover edition of The Bell Jar and jotted a little note inside.

And then there are the books I've had signed by the authors. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was signed when I attended his reading at Barnes & Noble in Skokie, Illinois back in 2007, I believe. Sadly, I didn't get a chance to actually talk to him while he was signing it – it was done in a sort of assembly-line fashion. We gave our books, with our names on little sheets of paper tucked inside, to B&N employees who gave them to Alexie to sign and then brought them back to us. Nevertheless, just having it made me happy.

My former, Pulitzer nominated professor, Luis Alberto Urrea (probably one of the best teachers I've ever had) signed my copy of his book, The Devil's Highway for me and drew a little cactus inside.

And both, my copy of Valencia and my copy of The Chelsea Whistle were signed by Michelle Tea from two different Sister Spit performances at my favorite Chicago bookstore, Women & Children First.

One of those nights, I also had my picture taken with the author.

And then there are the nifty used books I've taken into my loving care: a beautifully bound copy of Emily Dickinson's poems or this old copy of Tom Robbins' Even Cowgirls Get The Blues with an inscription inside that I can't help but wonder about. It reads: “To Billy from your first mate on the ship of life. Hahahohoheehee.”

There are other books, too – copies of favorites I've bought to cheer myself up during a difficult time, books given to me that I never thought I'd like and ended up loving, books that were birthday or Christmas/Yule gifts, books that were such a surprise to find for cheap or free at bookstores, bargain sales, etc. Always, always I will look forward to the books to come – books to treasure and love, because they will forever be my favorite gift.

Louise Tripp grew up in North Carolina. She currently lives in Chicago, where she is revising her first YA novel and working in a public library. You can read her regular blog at

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post! I love to think about those "days gone by" and how I felt about books as I first read them. Charlotte's Web and The Bell Jar are among my all-time favorites also.