This month is the twentieth anniversary of You’ve Got Mail. Watch it again to fall in love with Kathleen Kelly’s Shop Around the Corner. Or to laugh at the zingers she and Joe Fox whip at each other. Or to remember (if you are old enough) what life was like back when we dealt with chirping modems and the lightning fast speed (or so it seemed at the time) of communicating via e-mail rather than letters.
After watching the movie again this week, I want to take a visit to New York and while away a few happy hours in Kathleen’s bookstore. But since it doesn’t actually exist I’m going to cozy up with this quote from the movie instead: When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.
I agree wholeheartedly. There is something special about the characters in the books we grow up with. As Anne Bogel writes in her charming book about books, I’d Rather Be Reading, “…from an early age, and without consciously intending to, the ideas I got from books formed the interior architecture of my mind.”
I’ve been formed by the long walks I took with Anne and Diana along the red roadsides of Avonlea. I learned what it means to truly be brave when Eowynn picked up her sword and challenged one of the Dark Riders in The Lord of the Rings . I voraciously read all the Austin Family books by Madeleine L’Engle because her character, Vicky, struggled with all the emotions that were swirling inside my teenage head.
There were books that taught me that life could be horribly unfair and yet, still beautiful: The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. There were books that simply made me laugh: Everything Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary and The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Edwards and, of course, Calvin and Hobbes. There were books that brought my favorite fairy tales to life – all of Robin McKinley’s retellings – or let me travel to fantastical worlds of adventure like The Chronicles of Narnia. There were books that let me experience life in different ages and places: The Little House series and Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. And there were books that helped me to understand what a treasure I had in a loving family: Little Women and Rose in Bloom and A Wrinkle in Time.
Even as I write this, I look across the room at my favorite bookshelf — the one with all my juvenile and young adult fiction. These are the books I read again and again. Sometimes on my own, sometimes delighting in sharing these favorites with my children and knowing they will be shaped and formed by what we read together. I choose these books intentionally, knowing that when my children reach adulthood and are no longer living under my roof they will still have good friends to keep them company, to remind them of truth and lessons learned, and to spur them on to new adventures.
So, as the old year closes and the New Year beckons, take an afternoon or an evening and visit your favorite bookstore. Wander around the children’s section and be reminded of all you the journeys you’ve taken on those pages. Or pull an old favorite from your bookshelf and read it again and remember.