There are a few books I have literally read to pieces. These books have been everywhere with me: in the car, at school, in the bathtub, at the dinner table. They have torn covers, water wrinkles, and food stains. And I love them.
One of my grandmothers sent me spending money every Christmas, and one year I blew all of it on books. I bought over a dozen of these old Puffin Classics, and I remember gloating over my books the way Ebenezer Scrooge gloated over his coins. I love Jane Eyre. I have rarely found a hero to match Rochester's brooding darkness and sarcastic humor, or a heroine to equal Jane's poetic, hard-headed goodness. Best Gothic romance ever.
When I was growing up, my family had a wall of books in our basement. I spent a lot of time in that basement, reading my way through old Louis L'Amour westerns, Reader's Digest editions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Great Expectations, and a host of other books. (I have never understood the recommended reading ages listed on the back of children's books. If a book looked interesting, I picked it up and read it, whether it was Dr. Seuss or Dickens. If it got boring, I put it down again.)
Gone With the Wind was one of those books I discovered in the basement. I tried to read it several times, but couldn't get past the first paragraph. Then I watched the movie on television. All four hours of it. I was addicted. I picked up the book again and read it. Then I read it again. And again. (My childhood was spent in New England, so that was the first time I'd ever read the South's version of the Civil War.) I read it until the back cover came off. (I think I lost that cover in a doctor's office.)
Gone With the Wind started my love affair with Really Thick Books. Now, I believe a proper book should be at least a thousand pages and weigh several pounds.
This book is not a thousand pages long, but it should have been. Dorothy Sayers is the most brilliant mystery writer ever, and a Very Smart Lady. (Sorry, Agatha.) Not only does she write maddeningly cunning mysteries, but her characters-- detectives, villains, witnesses-- are people, not just cogs in the machine of murder. Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane are one of the best romantic pairings ever, in my opinion, right up there with Jane and Rochester.
I love every wrinkle on these ratty old paperbacks. And yes, they are Real.
"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”
-The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams