Pulling old friends out of boxes

Quite apart from interviewing young Harry Potter fans who are more excited by the next book than the next film, I've also been reminded of the power of a good read during the past week.

A few years ago, my husband and I packed up nearly all our hardbacks, paperbacks, even reference volumes. We had this grand plan to build what we hoped would be a fabulous library. Never in our worst home-improvement nightmares did we think we'd be saying goodbye to our books for so long.

Once our new shelves were finally installed last week, we thought it would take sweat but not much time to unpack the boxes. Ho, ho, ho, as the seasonal greeting goes.

It began with a book of Diego Rivera murals. I lifted it from the box, but before I could slide it into place, it fell open - and we were gone. "Look at this!" I said to my husband. We admired the Mexican painter's works, astonished by the vastness of his vision. Of course, that led me to pull out the diary of Frida Kahlo, his wife and fellow painter, a fascinating self-portrait of a passionate artist.

My husband grabbed "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," and read aloud. Then, Carl Sandburg, e.e. cummings, the Thurber, and, well, it went on like that for a while.

All of which reminded me, in this era of media-saturated lives, when water-cooler conversation turns on the hot new TV show or blockbuster film, what a satisfying experience a good book still can be. Reading can be an adventure as well as a journey of self-discovery. But books are also, as young Harry Potter fans know, "the best of friends, the same today and forever." So says Martin Farquhar Tupper, according to our just- unpacked, dog-eared "Bartlett's Familiar Quotations."

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