Billy Collins (poet laureate of the US ((didn't know we had one, didja?)) ) wrote a beautiful poem about that very thing: finding other people's notes in the margins.
|Sometimes the notes are ferocious,|
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.
Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -
"Nonsense." "Please!" "HA!!" -
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
why wrote "Don't be a ninny"
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.
Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls "Metaphor" next to a stanza of Eliot's.
Another notes the presence of "Irony"
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.
Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
"Absolutely," they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
"Yes." "Bull's-eye." "My man!"
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.
And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written "Man vs. Nature"
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.
We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.
Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird signing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.
And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling.
Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page
A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
"Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love."
beautiful. and it makes me remember why i love the physical connection you can have with books, almost as much as i love the mental and spiritual connections.
the title of this post is 'free AUDIOBOOK downloads.'
and i do have to admit to owning a few mp3 versions of books i love.
audiobooks shouldn't replace 'real books' or libraries, or bookstores (think how much we would miss), but i agree wholeheartedly that there is a time and a place for them.
for instance, now. with me. i have to read an insane amount of books over the next few months in preparation for a big test. and i just do not have the time to sit and languish over a 12 foot tall stack of books. sadly. i have to wash dishes and do laundry, and play with my kids, and make things for the shop. but that doesn't mean i can't listen. i've plowed through a lot of my reading list recently with the help of audiobooks, and a lot of them have been free downloads from my favorite site: ambling books
they have TONS of titles, and you can download the player for free. and they have an awesome (literally... inspiring awe) collection of free downloads. these are books that are in the public domain, and it is a fantastic resource for great literature.
so our book picks today will be audiobook picks. (i realize this sounds like a paid ad. ... it's not. i just love the site. :)
For the little ones, there are a number of children's poetry downloads, which would be great for them to listen to before bed. or you can choose The Three Little Pigs, and have it reading to them during playtime. we have a few books that we listen to often, and it's a great alternative to music through your kids' free hours. even if they are too young to fully appreciate the story, the repetition and vocabulary aid in literacy and language development. (and saves you from the 75th reading of the same book!)
For middle-sized kids, there are so many options. two of our favorites are Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carol, and JM Barrie's Peter Pan. Both of these books are dense and language intensive, and ones your child may not choose to read on their own. being read-to exposes them to the richness of the language, the complexity of the characters and plots, and the "real stories" behind the movies they already know.
and, naturally, i couldn't choose just one option from the hundreds available for grown-ups. i did manage to limit myself to three:
if you're feeling in the mood for classic romance: The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas, or Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte.
if you're looking for something more witty and powerful, try Oscar Wilde's, The Picture of Dorian Gray.
so head over, peruse the virtual aisles, and choose a great book. let someone read to you today!