Books break the shackles

We are surrounded by communications from the past! Tune into one today. Photo by William Hoiles, via Basking Ridge Historical Society, CCA 2.0

We are surrounded by communications from the past. Tune in to one today!
Photo by William Hoiles at Basking Ridge Historical Society, CCA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“One glance at [a book] and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time…”Carl Sagan

If you could host a dinner party and invite whomever you wanted, from any era, who are some of the people you’d invite?  Make your list, then head to the library, or check an online library or database.  Chances are you can hear from each person on that list, directly, via the wonders of written words.  And you won’t even have to promise them dinner to enjoy their company.

In fact, we’ve been hearing from all sorts of fascinating people via the quotes on this blog, and a great many of them are no longer living on this earth.  How fortunate we are, that so many wise and witty people took the time to introduce themselves and their ideas to us, by leaving behind books, manuscripts, letters and journals that are still being read today.

How about you?  Are you leaving messages for your grandchildren, great-nieces and nephews, or friends and neighbors who will not meet you for many years hence?  You can talk directly to them with very little effort or expense.  Pick up one of the lovely blank journals available everywhere (I find some beautiful ones for very little money at T. J. Maxx) or start a free blog online.  Or just record your thoughts in an online journal with a word processing program (be sure to save a backup copy to a jump drive or memory card).

And for those who really enjoy writing, self-publishing via print-on-demand or ebook has never been more affordable AND respectable than it is now.  Let’s break the shackles of time by reading and writing.  It is one of our greatest gifts, and it’s been defeating despair for hundreds — no, make that THOUSANDS — of years!

One year ago today:

If you look


  1. Reblogged this on The UnRead Book.

  2. raynard

    Julia, my two youngest daughter are now interest in my side of the family..Going to share some of my previous blogs with them and the rest of the family.When this in law thing with my wife’s aunt comes to” a fork in the road and we go the way we should, then I might get back to blogging and baking.. be blessed

    • Hi Raynard, it’s nice to hear from you! I know you have been busy. I hope things will be resolved with your wife’s aunt soon. I will pray for all of you. Keep writing down those memories for your family – they will be cherished I feel sure.

  3. Very true! Someone on the Upper Room described a “book” that she’d made for an aunt (I think), with encouragement for each day. A format like yours would be great: photo, quote or Bible verse, reflection. Maybe in my spare time! 🙂

    • Susan, that sounds so nice. I bet the person’s aunt loved it. My aunt has told me many times she wanted a book of my blog, but I’ve never taken the time to put one together. As with you, such things are consigned to my imaginary “spare time.” 😀

  4. Amen and Amen!!!! 🙂 This is so true! I am still thankful to my mom for passing on her great love of reading to me. And I am thankful I went to college in my 30’s, because that experience catapulted me into reading all sorts of things! This is an encouraging post.

    • Thank you, I’m so happy you like it! Your mom gave you one of the best gifts a parent can give when she shared the love of reading. It opens so many doors.

      • I agree wholeheartedly, Julia! I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t able to read!

        • Thomas Jefferson supposedly said “I cannot live without books” and I totally understand what he means.

          • I couldn’t either; it would be torture!

            • Well, between Tom, you and me, it’s obvious that great minds think alike!

              • Thank you! 🙂

                • You’re welcome, hee-hee. 😀 Any excuse to put myself in the same class as Thomas Jefferson, at least when it comes to thinking.

  5. I forgot to answer your question! I would invite Jodi Picoult, Anne Lamott, and Amy Tan to talk about writing! I love all of them very much.

    • Hey, can I come to that party? I like all of them. Amy Tan has been a favorite of mine for years. I’ve read all her books, but the one I like best is still The Kitchen God’s Wife, which I think was her second book. I was able to hear her speak in person in Newport News a few years back, and at the end of her talk, she opened up her bag which was sitting beside her on the stage, and a tiny little dog (a Yorkie, I think) jumped out and followed her off stage. Naturally the audience loved it.

      • Wow, you are fortunate! I would love to hear her speak! I have only read The Joy Luck Club. I am reading The Bonesetter’s Daughter right now which I actually think I read some of years ago, but for some reason never finished it. I like it, though, and I have her latest one also. I borrowed them both from the library. I have heard that The Kitchen God’s Wife is good. I’ll read it eventually.

        That is such a cute story about the dog! I don’t think many breeds besides a Yorkie or a Chihuahua would fit in a purse, so it probably was a Yorkie! 🙂

        • That little dog was absolutely adorable. It trotted along after her but when it heard the loud collective “AAWWWWWWW” from the audience, it stopped and turned around briefly, as if taking a curtain call, before trotting off stage. So cute. You can see photos of her with her two dogs here (click on “Tux and Bobo”and scroll down for the photos). Amy Tan was graceful, eloquent and poised with the audience, and an interesting speaker. I admire her for having worked for several years with children who have developmental disabilities, before she went on to become an author. She’s from a different world than I am, and is unlike me in many ways, but I connect with so much that she has written about. Especially I appreciate her understanding of the complex relationships between mothers and daughters.

          • Thank you, Julie, for sharing this! It is definitely going on my blog to share! Those pictures and the story are adorable.

            I also remember feeling thankful for Amy’s work with children who have developmental disabilities. When I was in college, that was what I was planning to do, but I met my husband late in life, and decided to have a family instead.

            And yes, I love Amy’s portrayal of mother-daughter relationships. Mine was difficult at times with my mom, but in her latter years, it was wonderful, and it was very hard letting her go almost 9 years ago!!

            • I too had some stormy times with my Mama, which I think is pretty common between mothers and daughters. That’s probably one reason why Tan’s books are so popular. Most of us had a similar trajectory; the relationship softens up considerably as we all get older. Mama calls me often now and I am so grateful to have her and Daddy still with us.

              • Wow you are fortunate to still have your parents! I need mine right now more than I can say, just their emotional support. My mom died in 2006 and my dad in 2008 which I think I told you before. It has been pretty hard.

                • Yes, I would think it’s a kind of loss that never really goes away. To this day when something goes wrong, my mother is the first person I call. Even when Jeff got sick, she is the one who helped me convince him to go to the ER. She and I were were both afraid it was appendicitis. It was, but of course, it was much more. My parents are such a strength to me and though I probably will outlive them, I hope I can call on that strength after they have left this life, through the memories of all that they have said and done. I used to tell them “I will never lose you because I will always know what you would be saying if you were here.” That’s true in one sense, but that was many years ago when old age seemed far away for them and me. Back when I “knew” a lot more than I know now. Things always look different from up close. I hope and pray your sorrow is comforted with the happy memories you cherish.

                  • I have a great deal of happy memories of my mom, but not as much from my dad since he was an alcoholic until I was 27 when he finally quit. But he was there for me and my husband and children the first four years of my son’s life until we had to move. Those are my best memories of my dad. 🙂

                    • I am so happy that you do have some good memories from your dad. I wish he had quit his addiction sooner, but thank God that he did finally quit in time to give you some time with him that was not compromised by his problems with alcohol. I don’t know anyone whose life has not been affected in some way by alcohol addiction, whether through a friend, a relative or themselves. Recovery and sobriety are worth celebrating, even when they are long past due. Thanks for sharing your memories with us.

                    • Thank you, Julia. And I agree that recovery and sobriety are always worth celebrating! 🙂

                      You’re welcome. I am happy to do it.

                    • 🙂 ❤

  6. That it is. I used to keep personal journals, but destroyed them before I got married. I hope the words in my blog mean something to my two boys one day. Preserving history is essential, no matter what era we’re from.

    • Alys, I’m sure your sons will be so happy to have your blog to share with their children and grandchildren. Major bummer that you destroyed your journals! Although I destroyed some of mine from college, too, so I don’t blame you. My friend Ellis kept fabulous journals for many years that I would read compulsively, and she lost most of them in Hurricane Katrina. It always amazes me to realize that era of my childhood are now looked on as history by younger generations. I hope that the digital records we are making today will survive and be accessible; I have some old 3.5 floppies from library school and can’t find a program that knows how to open the files, even though I still have a drive on one of my ancient computers.

  7. Carolyn

    I have books that my grandmother used in school. .They are very old but very interesting to look over and read. She was born in the late 1800’s and don’t finish school. Not sure how far she got. Terry loves history books . Books are great to have and a nice chair to sink into and do some reading.

    • WOW Carolyn, how I’d love to see those! Next time you come, you will have to bring them with you. They must be quite valuable now. We love all sorts of books around here but history books are probably what we have the most of, except maybe for fiction. So next time you come, you and I can chat over tea while Terry browses through our collection. 😀 Bring those books of your grandmother’s when you come. ❤

  8. Ahh…books. My friends for a very long time! 🙂

    • Same here! And I bet we know some of the same ones. For readers, it’s a small world.

  9. Michael

    With all your nice blog entries about trees and plants I have thought it would be nice a to have a little “Spirituality of Plants” book of meditations.
    Yesterday I went to a dedication of the Coenosium garden at the South Seattle community college arboretum. I have done some volunteer gardening there and took horticulture classes there. The garden is dedicated to dwarf conifers of which there are an amazing variety.
    So I would definitely want Jefferson at my little soire along with Quincy Adams and David Douglas-to name a few.

    • Wow, I had never heard of David Douglas, but I looked him up after reading your comment and it seems we have him to thank for the Douglas fir. So when he shows up at your dinner party, give him my thanks. I agree that one could come up with some interesting meditations on the various plants and their features. I don’t know all that much about them but as with most things, I know enough to see that the closer I look, the more interesting they get. If you are interested in combining horticulture and theology, you might want to invite John Chapman, a.k.a. Johnny Appleseed.

  10. Michael

    There is a new book out about Douglas which I have not read, but he also discovered the Noble Fir- probably my favorite Fir species- along with the Douglas. The Douglas is the one I have growing on the parking strip- now about 80 feet high.

    • To refer to a quote I featured here awhile back, he can truly say that he “gave the world a good tree” — or two or more!

  11. Michael

    Why do I always end up talking about plants here? A bit of green thumb fever-which reminds me there is a fun movie about plants among other things with Clive Owen in the lead called “Greenfingers” I think based on a semi-true account of some prison gardeners in Surrey England who go on to win an award at the Kew Garden show.

    • Michael, you talk about plants for the same reason I keep talking about the same things over and over in this blog (tea, animals, books, nature…) – because we can never get enough of “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report…” (Philippians 4:8). You are more than welcome to talk about plants here anytime. Green thumb fever is a healthy kind of malady!

  12. Michael

    “These are a few of my favorite things”. per Julie Andrews. I have been drinking Hibiscus tea which is supposed to be good for blood pressure as mine has been creeping up over the years- pre hypertensive.
    Can’t get enough of plants. Today I read something on lilies and a Northwest recommendation was the Oriental lilly “Sorbonne” heavily scented and now is the time to plant one. Now is also the time to put some tulips in depending on the weather.
    “Whatever things are lovely,” is a good verse choice and perhaps Paul was referencing the wild flowers.

    • When we lived on the central coast we had calla lilies all along the front of our house. They were HUGE and we never did anything to them, they grew like crazy all on their own and bloomed so beautifully. I looked up that Sorbonne lily and it is gorgeous – if it is scented that makes it really perfect. I love the color. I tried tulips at our York home but the voles gobble them up. Nothing we tried in terms of barriers worked. Even the ones in pots were eaten. So I gave up on them. Good thing I love daffodils so much!

  13. Michael

    One thing you can try when planting bulbs is too plant them in metal cages–. We do that to keep the squirrels from getting them. My mother in law’s idea. The cages look like those old metal bicycle baskets. Not sure where she got them.
    I have not located the Sorbonne lilly bulbs yet- but supposed to be very nice.

    • Michael, it seems like we tried that, or something similar. Apparently the voles are so tiny (like mice) that they can squeeze through almost any opening. In our whole huge neighborhood (about 500 houses) I’ve only ever seen one neighbor with tulips. I need to ask them how they did it.

  14. When I think of ‘reading and writing’ it means ‘pleasure’. That’s how freeing it is to be literate. To be illiterate in this age of mass communications would be like living in a prison. My gosh, it’s hard to even fathom how you could manage. Education is such a privilege. It’s a crime some societies still think different for woman.

    • K, so true! Reading this comment immediately after answering the one to Eric on a different post, in which I talked about the gift of communicating with others regularly, your comment only underscores that this ability is something we must never take for granted. I too feel a strong sense of protest and even outrage at the thought that denial of literacy has been the means of subordinating people and keeping them in chains (literally or figuratively) for centuries, even millennia. In library school we learned about the development of literacy, and how it enabled the flourishing of freedom in various areas that had previously been controlled by an elite handful of political power-brokers in both government and religion. The Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance were closely linked to the growth of literacy. It is hard for us to comprehend that there are still places where women aren’t allowed education.

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