Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Forever Books!

My name is Chuck, and I’m an inveterate reader.

The truth be told, I look for any and all opportunities to sit down with a book and simply read. There are not enough hours in the day for me to read the books that are of interest to me. I am unashamedly a bibliophile – a lover of books. Books have been my constant companion since elementary school. I can usually be found reading two or more books at one time. There are books I read for my own personal continuing education; books I read for my ministry (particularly sermon preparation); books I read as part of my role in the military; books I read for pastoral counseling; and books I read purely for personal enjoyment.

Closely linked with reading is the need for a dictionary. I always have this necessary tool within reach. At my desk at home where I write these articles, weighing in at about ten pounds, sits my 1989 edition of Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. When I’m traveling I carry my Webster’s Pocket Dictionary. It is a “must have.”

I’m all too aware of the fact that the Internet has been touted as replacing the need for books. My response to that is: Nonsense! I read a significant amount of material each day on the Internet, but there is nothing that could ever replace the comfort of reading a good book. In fact, to my way of thinking, the term “a good book” is a redundancy. I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve read in my life that I threw away. One of those that will probably surprise you is, “Forrest Gump.” It was awful. Specifically, it was vulgar throughout, depressing in its characterization, and it used gratuitous sex, inappropriate sexual references, and outright sexism, that left you scratching your head. What could the author have been thinking? The Forrest Gump character in the book is the antithesis of the wonderfully warm and innocent person portrayed in the movie of the same name, brought to life by one of the finest actors of our generation, Tom Hanks.

But I digress . . .

My family first moved to Paris, France in 1960 where I was quickly confronted with a number of challenges. First, the culture with its resplendent history was overwhelming. I couldn’t even begin to appreciate the lengthy reign of the French kings who sat upon the throne before the proletariat rose up on what is known as Bastille Day, unceremoniously ousting the blue bloods. Second, I was enrolled in a bilingual school. Literal translation: classes were taught in French, but cheer up! All the teachers spoke English. This dilemma brings me to my third point. I needed to learn to read and speak French fast!

My means of escape was to visit a huge bookstore in Paris where I could buy a book in English. I particularly enjoyed a series called, “We Were There.” It placed the reader into the lives of the young characters in the book who were thrust back to a significant world event, seeing it all unfold through their eyes. I would read until I fell asleep, or had finished the book! One of my favorites being, “We Were There at Pearl Harbor.”

The next year we moved to Norway. Once again, I was rescued by books in English. I discovered the wonderful world of Louis L’Amour, the prolific writer of Westerns. As a thirteen year old, with roots from Texas, I was figuratively in my element.

I have a book with me all the time. If I’m heading off to the store, or a doctor’s appointment, or a meeting with a friend, I always have a book in hand, just in case I have a few minutes to kill. Then I find that occasional rare find of a book that captivates me. I refer to such writings as “bathroom books.” I look for any opportunity to sneak away if only to read a few more pages. Perhaps the famous English essayist and critic, Charles Lamb, said it best: “I love to lose myself in other men’s minds.”

I have been a part of several organizations that use a Latin phrase that embodies what they represent. In the Marine Corps we say, “Semper Fidelis” (Always Faithful). My seminary used the Latin, “Sola Scriptura” (Scripture Only). So I’ve been thinking I would start a group of book lovers. We’ll use a Greek phrase, and call ourselves, “Aionios Biblios” (Forever Books).

Shortly after returning home from my tour of active duty a few months ago, I was approached by Brigitte Long. She is spearheading the Friends of the Ripon Memorial Library. She invited me to work with her and her committee in raising the consciousness level of the community regarding our library. I can report to you that this is not the library of yesteryear! In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how the library has expanded its resources. They have guests who hold mini-seminars on a variety of topics and subjects. They are fully up to date with CDs, videos, DVDs, audio-books, and multi-language books for our ever-changing society.

You really should stop by and check it out. Go on-line to: http://www.stockton.lib.ca.us/. Then scroll down to where it says Ripon Branch.

You know where it is. It’s catty-corner from Ripon Elementary on Main Street. Melinda Kopp is the librarian. Tell her Chuck Roots sent you.

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