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Saturday, February 22, 2014

My Most Favourite Book Memories

Some of my all-time favourite gifts that I have ever received have been in the form of books.

I know that I certainly used to be one of those kids who would climb underneath the Christmas tree to go through any and all gifts that were mine, and do a little detective work on them.  And, usually I could tell if the present was a book.  If it were a hard-covered book, it would be a thin, but non-flexible package.  And if it happened to be a paperback book, it would be a little bit more bendable.

(Not that I actually tried to bend my Christmas or birthday gifts.  I did try to chew the corners out of the gifts, but I never actually bent them.  And, do not judge me.  I bet some of you did the same thing I did when you were children.)

Truth be told, I not only enjoyed getting books as gifts, but I also enjoyed giving books as well to family members.  I've given comic books and magazines as gifts to my niece and three nephews.  I bought my sister a hard-cover version of "Charlotte's Web", and my other sister has received several anthologies of Garfield comic strips from me over several birthday and Christmas celebrations.

I realize that with the invention of Kobo and Kindle e-readers that books are starting to become less popular for gift giving, but as long as I live, I will never transition to the digital age.  There's something about books in general that makes me incredibly happy. 

In fact, some of my most favourite places that I have ever been to in my entire life have all had to do with books. 

And, that's exactly what this topic is all about for today.  My all-time favourite book themed places.

I think that I've always had a love of reading and writing.  It took me a while for me to improve my penmanship.  When I first began writing, my R's looked like half a square, my S's were backwards, and I could not write a number four to save my life.

(Interestingly enough, the number 4 is now my favourite number to write.)

But my love of reading was implemented at an extremely young age.  In fact, my parents and sisters can all vouch for me here, but I learned how to read before I learned how to talk!  I stayed silent until I was three, but could easily tell the difference between Reader's Digest and Jughead With Archie Digest at the supermarket checkout counters!  Apparently my mom would ask me where the book was located by saying the title, and I would point to it every time.  Not exactly sure why I couldn't say it at the time, but I suppose I had my reasons for not speaking.  Maybe I was just shy.  Maybe I'm still shy.

And, maybe I'm just babbling.

Anyway, there were lots of places that helped satisfy my love for reading.  And to begin this trip down memory lane, why don't we start at one of the first places that I remember falling in love with books?

Ah yes.  The town library.  I can't even begin to tell you just how many hours I spent in that place.  In fact, I still have my library card!  Sadly I haven't renewed it in a few years because I've lately been buying books that I want to read.  I should go about getting that card renewed again someday.  I had forgotten just how much I loved that place.

I don't really remember how old I was when I first started going to the library.  All I remember is that every Thursday afternoon, my mom and I would walk from our house to the library where I would check out ten children's books every week (ten being the absolute maximum number of books I was allowed to check out per visit).  I even insisted on carrying all ten books by myself the entire journey home, but my mother insisted on helping me.  Which was probably a good thing in retrospect because had I dropped one of the library books in a mud puddle, we would have had to pay for a replacement copy - and money was quite tight then to be able to do that on a regular basis! 

But really, that library was a wonderful place.  The books kept me quiet, the head librarian was such a nice lady, and I always felt safe there.  And when my third grade class started going to the library every Thursday afternoon, it was just like old times!  And, because I had gone there so often, I always told my classmates where they could find the second-best books in the whole place.

(Hey...I wanted the best books for myself!)

In comparison, our elementary school library was just as good as far as set-up (we had a red bathtub in the middle of the storytime circle in the library that all of the kids fought for), but the public library had more selection of books.  If I had my choice, I would totally pick the public library over any school library.

However, my school just happened to be the source of another book memory.

How many of you were lucky enough to have the Scholastic Book Fair arrive at your elementary schools?  Well, for me, having the Book Fair come to school was like the equivalent of Santa Claus coming down the chimney on Christmas Day.  There were so many books, and so many book accessories (like bookmarks and pencil cases) that I literally wanted to buy every single one.  In fact, whenever I knew that the book fair was coming, my parents purposely doubled my allowance that week so that I could get the opportunity to go.

(My parents reasoned that spending their money on books was far healthier than wasting their money on renting Nintendo games from the corner store.)

And, there was one instance in which I will always remember.  Parent-teacher interviews were being held at school during a P.A. Day, and the school did something rather unique.  They kept the book fair open during regular school hours so that while the parents and teachers were talking about their children's progress in school, the kids could spend the day at the Book Fair.  Well, because my last name begins with "T", I was always the kid whose parent-teacher interview was scheduled last.  So, my mom decided that she would take me to the school early so that I could spend the whole day at the Scholastic Book Fair.  I tell you, I don't remember how many books and accessories that they had at that fair, but I think I easily spent twenty to thirty dollars on books that day.

(Which might not seem like a lot now...but back in 1992, twenty dollars bought at least four books, plus a couple of shiny pencils.)

Some of the stuff that they had on display at these Book Fairs were quite unique, interesting, and quirky.  Believe it or not, they even had Archie comic books on sale at the Book Fair.  Mind you, those books were written completely in French, so I couldn't really make out what they were saying...but I kind of regret not picking up at least one.  You know, just to have it for a conversation piece.

But speaking of Archie all know that I am a...well...obsessed fan of the comic series.  And in this final place that influenced my love of books, this place is where I happened to build the bulk of my collection.

Welcome to "Book Trader".  Previously known as "Walkabout Books".  Previously known as "Mulberry Hill Books".  The name might have changed over the years, as well as the colour of the store (it used to be a royal purple colour back when it was "Mulberry Hill Books"), but the store is one of the best stores in my town to buy used books.

I don't know how some of you feel about used book stores, but I absolutely love them!  The smell of used books, the feel of used books, the PRICE of used books...absolutely wonderful.

And to think that I would have never known that the book store would have existed had my sister not dragged me into that shop looking for previously owned true crime novels.

You see, back when my sister was in high school, she developed a love for true crime and mystery novels, and rather than spend twenty dollars on one book, she would rather spend twenty dollars on five previously owned books.  It didn't matter in the slightest if the books were dog-eared, had wrinkled covers, or even a little bit of water damage on them.  If the books were complete, and the price was low enough, it was good enough for her.

Well, while she was looking through the true crime books, my gaze turned towards the kids section.  And, when I turned and saw the huge stack of Archie Comic Digests from a period of twenty years just sitting there, begging to be bought, my heart felt like it was going to come out of its chest.  From that moment on, I was in love with that store!

And, I think my sister kind of noticed that I was just staring blindly at the stack of Archie comics because she offered to buy me a couple of books with the change she had left over.  So, she had something like two bucks left in her pocket, and that was enough to buy two books.  So, I decided on a couple of Jughead comics (he is my favourite character), and that was that.

But then I came back the following week with my allowance and bought a whole bunch of Betty and Veronica Digests.  And then I went the following week to score a couple of Archie Double Digests.  And, over the course of over twenty years, I would say that this store was responsible for netting me exactly half of my current comic collection.

Of course, comics weren't the only things they had on sale that I bought.  I bought a couple of pop culture books from that store, as well as some cassette tapes and CD's, as they sold old music as well.  But ultimately, it was the comic books that I was after.  And, the people who own the store got to know my by name and face.  I admit that as I grew older, and my comic collection grew more complete, I've been spending less and less time there...but I still pop in once in a while.  After all, some of the comics that are falling apart will need replacing at some point! 

So, those are three of my all-time favourite book memories.  Do you have any book places that made you smile?  Tell me about them here!

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