BOOKWORM DELIGHTS come in all guises! I’m talking about the periphery, the delights beyond lovely language, powerful characters, and compelling plots.
Bookworm Delights #1: I love old books.
My oldest books are cookbooks. The oldest is DIRECTIONS FOR COOKERY, IN ITS VARIOUS BRANCHES, BY MISS LESLIE, 1843; unfortunately it isn’t at all photogenic. It includes helpful hints, such as two jills are half a pint; preparations for the sick; receipts [sic] for perfumery, and pudding catsup; uses for peach pits and plum stones; and advertisements for a treatise on the physiological and moral management of infancy, a book on the culture of flowers and grapes, and THE HOUSE BOOK: OR, A MANUAL OF DOMESTIC ECONOMY BY MISS LESLIE.
Sometimes old books yield bonuses. This 1899 printing of the WHITE HOUSE COOKBOOK came with four 1917 U.S. Dept. of Agriculture pamphlets with titles like “Do You Know Corn Meal? ITS USE MEANS Service to Your Country, Nourishing Food for You.”
I don’t actually collect antiquarian books, cookbooks or otherwise. But I like having old books around, and many on my shelves date from the 1930s onward.
Given my druthers, I’d still read the fifty- and sixty-cent paperbacks rather than the shiny new editions from the bookstore.
Bookworm Delights #2: I love sets of books
When I find an author I really enjoy, I want to read everything he or she wrote. And I keep the ones I like best, both fiction and non-fiction.
Bookworm Delights #3: I love books about places I’ve lived.
Therefore, I have an array of books about Upstate New York, Washington, DC, and Maryland, as well as Ohio and Virginia.
Bookworm Delights #4: When I travel, especially abroad, I love bringing home books of memories.
I have everything from books of cityscapes to fiction in translation and historical summaries. I’ll spare you photos of all the foreign cookbooks I’ve accumulated. But here are a couple representing Germany and Italy, places I’ve visited more than once.
Bookworm Delights #5: Oddball books give me great pleasure.
My favorites of these are the three volumes of Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices by George Leonard Herter and Berthe E. Herter.
The first printing of the first volume was in 1960, and the three volumes are extremely entertaining examples of do-it-yourself publishing. The books contain wonderful paragraphs of opinion and assertion, with no attempt to document sources for the statements. For example, his recipe for Doves Wyatt Earp begins with four pages of purported biography of Earp. The recipe itself begins, “Pick ten doves and cut off their wings, feet and head. Remove the entrails and singe off the hair feathers with a candle.” Some of the recipes are quite tasty, the historical bits are fun reading, and all three volumes are illustrated with hundreds of black-and-white photographs, most of them by the author—at least, no photo credits are offered.
Closely related to oddball books are books on oddball topics—or if not oddball, at least on narrow topics—which I enjoy immensely because of the information therein.
There are whole books out there on toads, dung, how to hide one’s assets and disappear, and just about anything else you could think of.
Bookworm Delights #6: I love having shelves of unread books!
It feels like money in the bank.
With unread books on hand (and this can include unread books on an e-reader!), should you suddenly find yourself unemployed or otherwise short of money to buy more books just now, no problem! Ditto should you find yourself laid up with a broken back or a lingering case of flu.
Bookworm Delights #7: I love receiving books from family and friends.
It’s better if I actually enjoy the book. But opening books inscribed by loved ones, knowing they were thinking about me and my interests—however imperfectly—when they bought them, makes me glow.
And what are books without bookmarks?
Bookworm Delights #8: I love bookmarks.
My favorite commercial bookmarks are book darts.
They are simple, slim, and elegant. They stay put. They can mark a page at top or side or bottom (though I don’t see the point of bottom). Unfortunately, the local Barnes and Nobel doesn’t carry them anymore.
And did you know that Post-Its were invented by a man who was trying to create a bookmark that would stay put when reading on airplanes?
And speaking of bookmarks, decades ago I started using postcards as markers in cookbooks—books that often need more than one marker AND are opened frequently.
Bookworm Delights #9: I love coming across a postcard sent thirty years ago by someone traveling near or far.
They make me smile and think of the sender. Many of those senders are dead now. And I suppose postcards are going the way of the dodo bird, as friends now send e-mails with photos. Oh, sigh. All the more reason to treasure the ones I have.
Last but not least. . .
Bookworm Delights #10: I delight in my reading chair!
True bookworms read anywhere and everywhere. I read in doctors’ waiting rooms, and in the dentist’s chair waiting for the impression gunk to set up. In the car when it isn’t my turn to drive. When I’m in bed, lights out, the only glow that from my Kindle. Yes, I’ve even been known to read in the bathroom. But the best, coziest reading—whether with fireplace or AC—is in my recliner, feet up, padded armrests supporting my elbows.
Bookworm delights are as many and as varied as bookworms themselves. What are yours? Tell me in the comments below, on Facebook, or Twitter.