I've been thinking about the books I own and how they came to be mine, for no other reason than that the movie Life of Pi has come out and I have the most vivid memory of the book becoming mine. It was some time between May and December of 2002 at Walden Pond bookstore on Grand Avenue in Oakland. I had just graduated from college and was living in a three flat on a little hill rising up between Grand Avenue and Lakeshore. Walden Pond was the independent bookstore just below my house. It had towering shelves overflowing with books and wood floors made of narrow boards that creaked under every step. It was as quiet as a church. Life as an adult was confusing and somehow being wrapped in walls and walls of books was comforting. I would spend many evenings browsing these shelves because, I realize now, like many of Walden's patrons, it felt like home.
On these shelves, beside Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex, and in between Harry Potter books, sat the book with with orange and blue cover. Young Pi curled on a shaky white boat with companionship and danger intimately near. The blue ocean swirls below him, teaming with sustenance and more danger. My life as well was none too steady. I could barely afford my rent and my car was on its last leg. What extra money I had was spent on clothes and going out. I dated questionable men. Each day held the unknown, both glorious and dangerous.
There seems to me to be more found between the covers of a book than the writer's story. Books are a place marker, a holder of time in my past. Catching a glimpse of Beloved or A Man For All Seasons or Frankenstein on my bookshelf brings me back to the sunny classrooms of SCHS. What Maizie Knew, Moby Dick and Poetics to the round seminar tables of St. Mary's College. The Lovely Bones to a beach in Puerto Vallarta and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to a lonely hotel in Tillamook, Oregon.
There are new books, always new books, and now the kids' books, being added to our shelves. To our days. Building our memories. So that some day, as I hold Madeline or All The World or Peter and the Wolf in my arms, I will imagine that I am once again holding my children. Because so much can be held within a book.