Friday, August 5, 2011

Behind the Books

One of the things I love about books are the stories they carry, not between the covers on the pages, but in the space around them. The stories not of why they were written or what lies inside, but just how that particular copy of that particular book came to sit on my shelves, taking up bookspace amongst all the other books. There are many books, of course, that just appeared as review books, no backstory, and many others that I bought at one point or another, no big story there either.

But there are some - more than a few - with stories that I hold to, that I love. Books that carry memories. And because I just finished reading one such book (After the Kiss, by Terra Elan McVoy), I decided I'd share a few of those stories-books-memories.

The story that goes with Matched is not really much of a story at all, but more of a feeling. I had a night class that got out at, I don't know, 9:30 or 10 maybe. It was on Tuesdays, after a full day of classes, and I was always tired when I got out, eager to get home. Matched was a book I'd been hearing about for months and the funny thing was the premise was one so close to something I'd thought I might write someday and it was this mixture of but-I-wanted-to-write-that and oh-now-I-don't-have-to-I-can-just-read-it and of course, there are infinite stories, infinite ideas. An in the middle of all these thoughts I really, really wanted to read the book. It had just come out maybe a couple weeks before, maybe less, and I was driving home from class and thought okay, maybe I'll just stop at Wal-Mart and maybe they'll have it and if they don't I can get something else, a paperback that'll be cheaper anyways. But Matched was there and even though it was pretty much all the money I had, I still had to buy it. So at 10-whatever, after a day of classes, with practically no money left in my wallet, I was pretty much as happy as I could be because I had this book I'd been wanting so badly and there's really few feelings better than buying the exact book you really, really want.

It was the last day of the Midwinter ALA meeting and I knew the floor was only open for a few hours, but I really really wanted to go back the last day. So me and my sister drove down and she went to some shops while I went to ALA. I was coming at the convention center from a different direction and got a little lost. I ran into a woman equally as lost and after a few locked doors we finally found our way into the building and then got on the elevator, eventually finding out we were both there for the same thing. She was a children's librarian and we got to talking about books and then the Newbery in particular (my favorite literary award) and she told me she'd been selected for the next year's Newbery Committee and I had a little fangirly moment like omg that's so exciting! Meeting her was the highlight of ALA for me and then I got to the floor and it was a little bittersweet because all of the pub people were packing up, but they were also selling the display copies so I found the Penguin people and was able to snag up the last copy of Anna and the French Kiss. Now the book itself, aside from being one of my absolute favorites, reminds me of ALA and that last day in particular - meeting the librarian, getting lost, showing up just as everything was slowing down, being so sad and so happy at having been able to attend in the first place and to have a tiny tiny place in the amazing world of children's publishing.

Every year  - or twice a year, whichever - I go to the children's hospital and feel too big and too old and the x-ray tech looks at me funny because they're fairly confused about how old I am (I look young) and why I'm there when it's a children's hospital. But I go and I have tests and sit in a small room and try not to get too anxious as I wait to talk to my doctor and see how my heart is doing. Whatever the news is, however good, it always freaks me out and never quite sounds good enough. I've gotten really good at not being too anxious but definitely being nervous and having to remind myself that if something were really wrong wouldn't I know it? I'm very good at reminding myself that I'm doing fine, but then I go to the doctor and there are all these small children with big complicated problems and my heart breaks a little for them and anyway, my last appointment was one that went just as planned, which is to say it went well and I got a clean bill of health. After I left that hospital I went to the one my mom works at and told her how it went and then went across the street to Barnes & Noble because after doing something difficult I like to head back to the mothership, which for me is any bookstore, anywhere. This is the book I picked up and the tiny chalky hearts on the cover are so appropriate.

I have so many other books with so many other stories. Maybe another time I will tell those stories also. For now I ask you, what are some of the best stories behind the books on your shelves?


  1. How fun to think about the stories that surround our book-getting! Thank you for sharing these especially since they are three books that I really enjoyed reading

  2. Your personal posts are always so beautifully written, Jordyn.

    Thanks for sharing this. I'm going to spend the whole day thinking about my own stories with certain books.

  3. Helen
    Ahh, I'm so glad you enjoyed these books just as I did!

    Clementine Bojangles
    OMG THANK YOU. So glad you enjoy the more personal bookish posts.

  4. Great post! I really enjoy hearing about how people came to get the books they have, or what they associate them with. There's a feeling, when you visit someone's house, and you see their bookshelves, like you're peeking at a slice of who they are, and you convey that really well here.

  5. No specific stories come immediately to mind for my books, but I loved reading about yours. =)

  6. Absolutely love this post! Wish I had a more constructive comment to add other than LOVE!