Opening the gates

Step through the gates to exploration and discovery! Poquoson Public Library, Virginia, March 2014

Step through the gates to exploration and discovery!
Poquoson Public Library, Virginia, March 2014

“Books. They are lined up on shelves or stacked on a table. There they are wrapped up in their jackets, lines of neat print on nicely bound pages. They look like such orderly, static things. Then you, the reader come along. You open the book jacket, and it can be like opening the gates to an unknown city, or opening the lid of a treasure chest. You read the first word and you’re off on a journey of exploration and discovery.” 
David Almond

Appearances can be misleading, can’t they?  The static, orderly appearance of well-stocked libraries or neat home bookshelves give no hint of the endless adventures awaiting anyone who opens the gates to the wealth contained therein.

The joys of reading have withstood the tumultuous changes of century after century, binding us to each other across continents and eras.  No matter our current circumstances, we can tap into this joy at little to no expense.  What a perfect way to defeat despair!

Some of my favorite adventures have taken place entirely within my own mind, traveling as an invited guest to a front-row seat in worlds far removed from my own.  And some of the most memorable characters I’ve ever had the pleasure to know are fictional; people whose virtues and faults are so familiar that they seem as true to life as any “real” person.

Today I invite you to step through those magical gates to discover people and places new to your life.  Who knows what you might see along the way? Feel free to send us a few virtual post cards in the comments below.


  1. Ann

    I love to read a good novel especially if it is set somewhere that I have lived or visited. While I still love the feel of a ‘real’ book in my hands, the ebooks are so easy to take with me. I read somewhere that your eyes and brain react differently to printed material as opposed to electronic material. That is, your eyes skim read e- material but slow down on printed material the result being that if you want to really be absorbed in a book, you should read it in its printed form. Don’t know if this is true or not, what do you think?

    • Ann, I notice a different kind of interaction with ebooks and regular print, though I read both very slowly. I do seem to do better with lighter subject material in ebook form, so probably I don’t absorb it as well in that format either; I’m not sure why. It’s just not as easy for me to get “lost” in the words. I love my Kindle Paperwhite, especially for travel and for reading in the dark (after Jeff is asleep). But there’s nothing like holding a good old-fashioned book, I totally agree with you. I’m thankful to have so many formats. My childhood self would have been so excited if I had known what lay in store for my book-loving friends and me!

  2. Cherie

    I love this post about books taking us to another place. They have been my constant companion for most of my life. Thank you, Julia, for reminding me just how much I love them! I keep you, Jeff and Matt always in my prayers!! Have a beautiful day! Love and Light!

    • Cherie, thanks so much for keeping us close in prayer. You and Ron are often in my thoughts and prayers too. I’m so happy you are a book lover! Books are one of the best ways I know to defeat despair. Here’s a quote you may like; it doesn’t specifically mention books but it captures the power of reading:

      “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.” ― T.H. White, The Once and Future King

  3. You know how to hit me where I live. Between the pages of a book. 🙂 Great solace when you can’t leave home. I love any room with lots of books.

    • Marlene, so do I! I noticed long ago that no matter how nice or plush or tastefully decorated a home or hotel is, I don’t enjoy being there very long if there are no books. Whereas the shabbiest room or cottage is a place I love to be, as long as there are lots of books to browse. I finally figured out that I must get some sort of security out of it. I think my earliest memories of reading (or being read to) are connected with feeling safe and loved.

      • Books are a security for me as well but on a different note. The books taught me that other families didn’t live like mine and they were where I escaped from real life. I lived for the happy ending. I still do.

        • Even though I felt mostly happy as a child, I liked books because they showed me that there were all sorts of ways to be happy. I always disagreed with the famous Tolstoy line about happy families being all alike. I thought it was just the reverse of what he said; I thought unhappy families were basically all alike, but every happy family was happy in its own way. I think I could make a strong case for that but I’ll spare you the details right now 🙂 Suffice it to say that I am VERY glad you were able to escape to happy times, even if only through books. I agree with you, I love happy endings!

          • The nice part of happy endings is you get to write your own. 🙂

            • So true! 🙂

  4. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. ☕️ I was thinking of the enjoyment Nancy Drew brought me as a young girl. A long ago time, a neighbor invited me into her home library and it was such a luxury, overwhelming really. It was a time of bookmobiles and “My Weekly Reader” so this gesture was so memorable. I love the Low Country books written by Mary Alice Monroe, my favorite! Well, you’ve made me long for sweet tea, the verandah, and a good book. 💛

    • I so totally loved Nancy Drew when I was a young girl. I had a goal to read all of them but never quite made it through. In those days, public and school libraries did not keep them in the collection because they were considered inferior to “real” literature, so we all swapped them around. I only owned about four or five and my sister owned the same number; in those days, kids really didn’t own much of their own (at least we didn’t). I am not familiar with Mary Alice Monroe, but when I get my life back finish with this semester of school, I’ll try to remember to look her up. I’m dreaming of sitting on the Verandah with you in the cool evening, sipping iced tea (it’s HOT today) and listening to the crickets!

  5. Amy

    I can never get enough books. I love them. Some of my favorite places to go have been in books. You have shown many of my favorites.

    • Amy, you know how I love your reading habits. I will always think of your family as the only one I know who has more books that we do. My goal is donate, give away, trash or otherwise part with a good percentage of all the stuff we have accumulated over the years, but I know I’ll always keep lots of books around. And with well-read friends there are always so many wonderful topics for conversation! 🙂

  6. blseibel

    Oh I do love the escape of reading. I have recently gotten back to reading fiction (thanks to one of your previous blogs’ thank you very much) and so love the adventures.

    My 4 year old godson LOVES the library and almost every time he’s with me we stop there for books (mainly Batman) and play time with all the fun stuff in the children’s section . I have vivid memories of visiting our library when I was a kid and the library was in an older building here in town, the squeaky wood floors and I think I read every horse book they had. Ahh, what wonderful memories.

    • Those library memories really are wonderful, and powerful too. You are wise to help your godson enjoy times there. No matter how bad things are going with me, when I walk into a library I instantly feel better. It’s a world of possibilities and a reminder that my personal problems are minimal in the great scheme of things. I’m sure a lot of the comfort I feel in a library goes back to happy times I spent there as a child.

      I never read horse books much but I know there was a whole series about Misty, and now I live near Chincoteague. I really need to go see the horses there sometime.

  7. michael

    It is funny you mentioned the Tolstoy line as I am still slogging through Anna Karenina -for the first time and just finished book one of eight. I suppose it serves as a glimpse into historical Russia and the footnotes help. I watched a 1936 production of the same with Basil Rathbone- i.e Sherlock Holmes- as Alexi Andreovich. I guess adultery always sells in any time period. As for Shakespeare?
    Jeff- thanks for your service.

    • Michael, I’ve never read any Tolstoy at all. I keep trying to get up the nerve to try Anna K or War and Peace, but so far just can’t manage it. He’s said to be quite good, though. Thanks for saying thanks!

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