I recently picked up a book compiled by Jen Adams called The Books They Gave Me. Her introduction begins, “J. Alfred Prufrock measured his life out in coffee spoons. I measure mine out in pages. I am the archetypal bookworm, never without a book in my bag and four more in progress on my nightstand… In short books are my language, my vocabulary. Every experience in my life is filtered through what I’ve read and somehow processed in prose. I’m constantly reading and constantly writing. And anyone who knows me well must understand and accept this about me. The books are nonnegotiable. They are part of me. They are me.” When I first read this I was certain we had been separated at birth. Books are me. It is what I have been and what I will always be.
Jen’s book is a compilation of stories submitted to her about books that people have received as gifts and what those books have come to mean to each of these people. As I read each entry I really started thinking about all of the books I have received over the years and I realized that just as I can name theme songs for different periods of my life I can also name the books that will always hold great significance, sometimes because of who gave them to me and sometimes because of the circumstance I was in when reading them. From Outside Over There, which my grandparents gave to me way before I was even able to understand how amazing an author and illustrator Maurice Sendak was and always will be, to the Where the Wild Things Are Poster that my first true love gave to me on our first Christmas together because he understood the importance of books in my life, to the birthday gift of three used books from my neighbor’s very cute younger brother who knew exactly what I wanted even though he had only know me a month, to the autographed copy of Walter the Farting Dog that my GM had sought out at an industry conference because he knew that there are few things more entertaining in children’s picturebooks than a farting dog, to the copy of The Princess Bride that my brother-in-law gave to me one Christmas during the years when I was lucky enough to be a full-time part of their life in Korea, to the countless books my mom sent me while I was there which made me equally laugh, cry, and look like a crazy foreigner on my commute to and from work each day, to The Sun Also Rises and The Moon and Sixpence which my dad insisted I had to read while visiting Paris. There are so many more that I could add to the list and in each I’m sure you would never find a run-on sentence as long as the one you have just read. Needless to say, these are the ones that stick out as having lead me to the place I am today. In a short 24 hours my online fundraiser will be finished and I will be taking the next step toward owning the Owl. When I first started working at Borders I was a little lost in life so I developed this theory that one day a book would fall on my head and whatever the subject was would lead me to my true purpose in life. Although I didn’t ever actually have a book fall on my head, I still believe it lead me to this place and this mission to ensure that generations to come will still have a chance to understand the magic and endless possibilities of holding a real book in their hands.
To sum up in better words than mine Jen tells us, “In this age of the e-book, part of the appeal of being given a hard copy book as a gift is its tangible timelessness. Books are real. You can give a book as a gift. Kindles are great for reading on the subway, and they get people to read more than they might otherwise, but they are flatly unromantic. Paper books offer a kind of permanent charm. They don’t expire; they can’t disappear in a power surge. Books last.”
The Owl means many things to many different people. Maybe you were there when you found out John Lennon had been killed, maybe it was on 9/11, or maybe it was the place where you were introduced to your all time favorite book. Working at the Owl over the past two years has given me the opportunity to meet all of these people and I am reminded that every time you walk through the door you can see, feel, and even smell (that’s right I said smell) the magic that books bring to our lives.
As this year draws to a close I am thankful for many things. I’m thankful that I get to hear and share in the experiences that the Owl has brought to so many people. I’m thankful that we as a business have made it our goal to give countless time, dollars, and shelf space to organization and individuals working so hard to make a difference in the world. I’m thankful that I’m able to dedicate every day to something I love and believe in. However, most of all I am thankful to all of my family, friends, and strangers that have supported me in my efforts to adopt the Owl. Your kindness and belief in me will not be forgotten. I will remember it every day I walk through the door and think how we are writing the Owl’s next chapter together.
As we head into the New Year there are 12 days left on our indiegogo campaign – www.indiegogo.com/owls-next-chapter. All it takes is $10 to be a part of this adventure. Please take time to consider this. I wish you all the best in the New Year and I’ll see you at the Owl!
The fundraising campaign is up and running at www.indiegogo.com/owls-next-chapter. A huge thank you to everyone that has already donated and shared the link! We are off to a great start and I am confident we will reach our goal. We even had a woman come in to the store last night to make a cash donation:)
I don’t know if it was the indiegogo high or the lack of sleep, but I had the best day in the store yesterday. The sweetest gentleman came in looking for a collection or series of books for his wife. She is in a number of book clubs and was a school librarian for years. He explained that they had been together for 45 years and he had never thought to give her books as a gift. It seemed like such a logical choice, however it only just dawned on him when they were in the Owl together the week before. Like many more mature couples they don’t give each other much because they already have most things they need or want. This year was going to be different. When he told me she liked fantasy, I knew exactly what he needed. He walked out the door with a complete set of autographed hardcovers from Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series. It is one of my favorite YA series and with Cinda being a local author we always have autographed copies on hand (thank you Cinda!). The whole interaction took about 15 minutes and by the end of it I couldn’t tell which one of us was smiling more.
It’s interactions like this that show me I am on the right path. It is a confirmation that this fundraiser is the direction I need to be moving in. It looks like December is going to be a very good month!
Ok, it’s official now. The press release is out, I’m contacting family, friends, and associates, and I’m putting the final touches on my indiegogo page. The fundraising campaign launches in two days and I will be on my way to making my dream of adopting the Learned Owl Book Shop come true. Luckily, I have picked just the right time of year to embark on this great adventure. Who better to ask for help than everyone’s favorite jolly old elf. You guessed it, the big guy himself, Santa Clause. Last weekend I had the privilege of talking with him when he came to the store to promote his book, Being Santa Clause. When I discussed it with him he patiently explained that not everyone can always get everything they ask for. If he just gave me the book shop with a bow on top, there may be other people who don’t get something that they really want. In other words, we have to spread the love. I’m hoping that this blog will help me do exactly that.
Undertaking a business venture such as this is life changing and involves not just me and my family but an entire community. A community that I have come to know and love as my own over the last two years. By starting this blog it is my hope that I will be able to share my next big adventure with everyone that wants to be a part of it. So here we go. Cross your fingers and toes and take the next step with me. I promise it will be worth it!