18 March 2015

Send your mind somewhere

The public library. Isn't it a fantastic place? Every time I walk in there - which is at least weekly - I get a thrill, as if I'm walking into an enormous bookshop where all the books are free. And I am! The only catch is that I have to return them. Our bookshelves at home are full to bursting, so that's a good thing.

This post is, of course, in the thread of thriftiness as a path to being a healthy, wealthy eco-warrior. But besides all that, a lifetime's worth of reading is just pure pleasure.

I recently saw reading described as "an enjoyable, even ecstatic experience" on the Mighty Girl website. The point of the article was actually to say that reading makes people smarter and nicer. That is not, of course, why many of us retire to bed to enter another delicious world. We don't always manage to keep our noses out of our books during the day, either, even when we've got chores to get on with.

The slogan of our local library is 'Send your mind somewhere'. Earlier this month mine traveled to seventeenth century Iceland, in the form of Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Oh goodness, I loved it. The beauty, the toughness, the fascination of it. It's based on a true story of the last woman to be executed in Iceland.

I also ventured to a certain Scottish castle over the last year, and as a result adored the Harry Potter series. I strung them out over a year because I couldn't bear to think that one day there would be no more of the series for me to read. I've coped quite well, though.

Each night Anna and I are tripping to nineteenth century America in the form of the Little House on the Prairie series. We've been amazed at Ma making head cheese out of the head of a pig, and at the family having trouble sleeping due to nocturnal Indian war cries (which turned out to be part of a plan to kill the white settlers! - well, some of them did have a horrifying motto: "The only good Indian is a dead Indian").

I have read elsewhere that the series, which was published in the early 1930s, was part propoganda. Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter, who edited the books, believed that the government had started meddling too much in people's lives. She turned her mother's memoirs into fables that showed their pioneering forebears as independent, capable, optimistic and incredibly resourceful - in short, thriving without government intervention. That is, apart from when the government drove out the Indians. They were pleased about that little intervention. (Sadly my forebears weren't much better in that respect.)

It's these adventures of the mind that keep me, and indeed our whole family, going for more, more, more books. Pure, free, enriching pleasure.

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