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What is a Book?

What is a Book?

When I was little my father took me to the library and I was so very young the sour old woman at the desk told him I could not borrow books, hinting not so gently that I would tear out pages and tint the margins with rainbow colors.

Dad knew better. I had been reading since I was three. My love affair with books started early.

Books were so important when I was a child. I gobbled them up as if I was starving. Books are ideas manifested in paper and ink.

Today, I have published a score of books in paper and electronic editions, explorations of ideas that pestered me night and day until I was moved to sit down with my yellow legal pad, my portable typewriter, and finally my frightening and intelligent new computer – to write.

A book is an idea that won’t let go, and once started takes you on a roller coaster ride to its end.

For me, a move from upstate New York led to the Eastern Shore of Maryland – an odd and historically isolated land rich in history and interesting characters.

I suppose it was only natural that I turned to local lore after years on the beat for a small daily newspaper where I learned that while not every story is news, some news carries the seeds for a darned good book. I see books as more than entertainment.

Some books, even those that may be called fiction, are really records of the society that spawned the work. Books show us what it was like in times when we had no electric gadgets to gobble up the minutes and hours of the day.

Books offer an antidote for loneliness, and they introduce us to the characters who might not be mentioned in the written histories – but lived those same times in wealth or poverty while the grand adventures and events blew past on an errant breeze.

Books are about ideas, and today’s schoolteachers do their best to interest children in the art of reading, but it seems many of their charges do not care to read in the way we did in another time. Young people care less about the immortal.

They want to text and rap. They want the instant thrill of seeing their words on a two-inch screen in the fractured language that does not even hint of the grandeur and drama in the classics.

But what do they know and what do they miss? I wonder what sort of ideas they find on those little two-inch screens as they forge a new sort of literacy, and if they will sort the wealth found between the pages of a book.

 A Book Is….

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