August 24, 2012

The Library up the Street

Mini libraryNot long ago, a mini library showed up in front of a house a few doors up the street. The little library can be seen in the figure at right. Such neighborhood libraries are part of recent trend I’ve read about, but I was surprised to see one less than a block away.

When I saw the new box next to the sidewalk, I immediately knew what it was, though it did take me a couple of days to investigate. When I got around to examining the library and its contents, a neighbor who was driving by stopped to ask me what the new object was.

My initial scanning of available book titles did not tempt me to take any books. I stopped by at least one other time to look for interesting volumes.

About a week ago, I was looking for something to read and discovered a copy of The Bridges of Madison County lying about. (I’m not sure where this book came from, but I was sure that I had not bought it.) Anyway, I was tired of reading Anglican Communion reports, so the thought of reading a short novel was attractive. I remembered that Bridges had been very popular, but I did not remember why.

A shelf in the library
Bridges tells the romantic story of a brief affair between a National Geographic photographer and a sexually frustrated wife of an Iowa farmer. I enjoyed the book, which had an interesting structure, though I did find some of the dialogue rather unlikely. I suspect that Bridges had more female than male readers.

Having finished Bridges, I had no reason to keep it around, so I decided to head up the street to the new library. I began scanning the shelves, and my eye immediately fell upon a paperback copy of The Phantom Tollbooth. I immediately removed Tollbooth and replaced it with Bridges.

The Phantom Tollbooth is a book dating from 1961 and written for children by Norton Juster. It is illustrated by Jules Feiffer. I had never read it and, until a few weeks ago, had never even heard of it. It was mentioned, perhaps more than once, in interviews on NPR, however. Apparently, the book has been a strong influence on many young readers. The book, which is notable for its clever wordplay likely to be missed by very young readers, is something of a combination of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Lord of the Rings, perhaps with a bit of Pilgrim’s Progress thrown in. It was a quick and enjoyable read.

Now it’s time to take another walk to the library.

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