For the Love of Books

The project took all winter. Drawing plans, scavenging lumber and stained glass, gluing, nailing sanding, staining. A way for my husband Jim to chase away the winter blues. I didn’t tell him I thought no one would use his little library. Who reads real books anymore when you can download them from Amazon? In fact, according to my sixteen year old grandson, no one reads books at all anymore—except for old people like his grandparents.

“The only books I read are school books,” he said.

It breaks my heart. All the beautiful books we read together when he was small. He used to devour whole series of fantasy adventure books.

“How will you develop your imagination?” I asked.

“I don’t need books for that,” he said.

When he’s not watching downloaded television shows and movies on his phone, he’s playing games or Instagramming his friends. How will his generation learn to think creatively when everything is packaged for them?

Jim doesn’t worry about the fate of the next generation. He’s got a plan, materials, tools, and time. He’s happy.

Throughout the dark months, the rumble of Jim’s table saw quivered the floor of my office right above his workshop. The high-pitched whine of his sander drove me to the kitchen—laptop clutched to my chest—to escape the sound. I envied his persistence through setbacks, mistakes and do-overs.  Sawdust accumulated on the shop floor, and drifted through the garage and into the house. All I had to show for my incessant tapping on the keyboard was sore fingers and stiff neck.

By spring, the library was ready. Jim mounted the structure on four stout recycled posts dug into the ground at the bottom of our driveway. The bright sunlight revealed the skill and beauty of his workmanship: a pitched roof with vents; a golden sun on one wall, a carved tree with a brass heart on its trunk on the other, a door of frosted glass, and solar lights inside. A fairy house, I thought.

We collected books scattered all over our house: from the grandkids’ long-abandoned stack in my office, the baskets in the living room, the night tables, the guest room, and the dining room table from our bedside until the two shelves were filled.

At first, a few cars slowed down to stare. Someone opened a window, aimed a cell phone, and clicked a picture. Then dog walkers paused, opened the door, and peeked inside. A woman yelled, “Love your little library,” as we swept last fall’s leaves from the driveway. Jim smiled.

From my office window, I watched a minivan stop. A woman got out, unbuckled two kids from their car seats in back and plopped them in front of the library. For several minutes they sorted through the books, pulling them out, flipping pages, putting them back. Finally, mom and kids got back in the van, each with a stack of books. Soon, cars we’d never seen before stopped, spent several minutes sorting through the stacks, took some out, and often left some behind. Four, five, six cars stopped by on a weekend. Kids stopped while riding their bikes and snatched a book.

Our little library had become a neighborhood stop on the way to other places.

Now, the shelves are never bare. Just when the supply of children’s books begins to thin, another batch arrives. When paperback thrillers run low, a new supply appears. Mysterious forces keep the library full and the lovers of books traveling to our doorstep.

My grandson was wrong. There are still people who read books—the real ones—who love the weight and feel of book in hand, the crisp snap of a turning page, the sharp colors of an alluring cover, the ability to mark your progress with a real book mark.

All this, thanks to Jim, who created the little library for the pure joy of it, sure that people who still love books would find it.