The Gift of Books (Patricia Potter)

I’m really happy to be in the saddle again here on Pistols and Petticoats.

It’s a new year, and I’m – sigh – a year older, having the distinction of a New Year’s Day birthday.

It seems so long since my last post, this will probably be a scattered mess of this and that.

But to address Jacquie’s post yesterday about passions, I thought I would elaborate on mine: books. And how much books have meant to generations of my famly.

I’ve often thought how lucky I’ve been – growing up in a family that valued books as much as they did food and lodging. They never considered books luxuries. They were as important to my family as meat on the table, far more important than a vacation, far more valuable than such new fangled inventions as television.

So I thought I would share this last story with how much books meant to generations of my family. My brother has a book dating back to pre-Revolution America that has survived during generations. Among my most priceless possessions is a set of books, “The Real America in Romance,” copyright, 1909. The title demonstrates I came by my interests naturally for my grandfather bought this series in the Arizona desert nearly a hundred years ago.

It’s a lovely set of leather-bound books which tells history through the eyes of fictional characters. The history is good, and often there’s a fine romance involved. I grew up on those books as well as sets of encyclopedias which improved as our financial situation improved.

The story of how my grandfather came to have these books is as fascinating to me – well, almost – as the books themselves.

As I reported before, My grandfather was a wanderer, an adventurer, a man always chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And thus he took his family to homestead in the Arizona desert. Money was very scarce along with water.

But whenever he heard of a drummer in the vicinity, he rode out to see if he had any books for sale. My grandmother, who was also an avid reader and was a writer in her own right (poetry and rhymes for greeting cards) was, alas, more practical and deemed food more important.

So grandfather would hide his new found treasures behind other books where he didn’t think his wife would find them. When she found the book, Will would catch hell, but always maintain, “that old book has been around here forever – you just forgot abaout it, and besides,” he would add slyly, “if you kept a better house, you wouldn’t be putting books where no one can find them.” Then the books would go up, beside another that had been purloined in a like manner.”

I think that’s my favorite of all stories about those years in southern Arizona (there are others about the Harvey Girls, a fruitless search for gold with an old miner and a mule (a disaster), and my father playing with a rattlesnake.

But it was always the story of the books that captured my imagination. Now here was a man with the right priorities. It’s a passion that has been given from one generation to another. My parents enrolled my brother and myself in the Junior Literary Guild when I was very young. It was the best investment they could imagine. My brother is never without a book. My nieces and nephews and their children all love books. My gift from my niece this year was “501 Must-Read Books.”

I think it all came from that bigger-than-life legend who went hunting for drummers to spend what little he had on books. I never met him. He died before I was born, but he’s always been a presence in our family.

So how did you learn to love reading and books? Did your family grow the love in you or did you just gravitate to it? Or did a teacher light a spark?

I announced a contest just before our Christmas break. The winners are Taryn Raye and Christyne Butler. If you will email me at with your address, I’ll send you one of my westerns.

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20 thoughts on “The Gift of Books (Patricia Potter)”

  1. Our family was all about reading when we were kids. My parents didn’t push us to read but they read themselves and they gave us (I didn’t see this then through a child’s view of the world) space and respect if we were reading, as in, well, okay you don’t have to do your chores or help with…whatever…since you’re busy reading.
    My dad also read to us. He was the best, doing funny sounds and lots of voices while he’d read a children’s book. Sitting on Dad’s lap while he read (eight kids so we’d just swarm him) while Mom cooked in the kitchen. That was a snapshot of ‘normal life’ to us.

    And my parents made books available. We were insanely poor so mainly it was library books but there were an endless supply of them.

    We did subscribe to some book club that sent Happy Hollister books, so we owned them, and we got Readers Digest Condensed books so there was a lot of great reading in them, including a lot of classic American lit like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

    It was easy to be a reader in my house.

  2. Mary. . .It sounds like really terrific parents. I too went to the library for most of my reading as a child, and now I’m going to the library for big print books for my mom. Even at 07, she’s an avid reader.

  3. I was raised on books and libraries…and I’m happy to report the reading gene has been passed to my year-old grandson. He loves to be read to and I’m serious, he actually pays attention LOL…my mom at 87 loves Debbie Macomber and while I’m a romance addict now, I loved Little Women (and all of Albott), the Bobbsey Twins, and Nancy Drew in days of yore. Oh, and happy birthday Pat! May this year be the best one yet! Hugs…

  4. Yeah, I meant to say happy birthday too. About my first thought was, drat, missed the tax deduction. And doesn’t that just say way to much about ME!!!!
    And your mom is 07? Pat?

  5. Patricia~ Sent you an email out just a few minutes ago.

    As for reading and books. My aunt on my mom’s side always had a lot of books and between all the older women in my family, they’d pass around bags of Harlequins and Silhoettes long before I started reading them myself. I can’t recall my parents ever restricting what I read.

    My grandmother on my dad’s side was a librarian at Asbury College and any time we were at my grandparents house I always found myself sitting in front of the small bookcases built into her dining room wall, just beneath the kitchen counter. Whenever books or magazines were going to be traded out for new ones at the library, she’d ask if we wanted them. Most the time it was sets of Encylopedias, which I would look at all the time. In my teens she gave me a set of classic novels- Alice In Wonderland, Heidi, Little Men and many more. She would always give me books for my birthday and Christmas. I have a couple of copies of Little Women, one of my all time favorites, as well as Anne of Green Gables, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and The Secret Garden.

    My mom always read to me and my sister. I still get teary eyed over A Visit From St. Nick and The Owl and The Fox that my mom read to us from a poetry book that I now have- I think it’s something like The Best Loved Poems of the American People.

    As a preteen my dad got me a membership to Just For Girls book club through Scholastic and I enjoyed that tremendously. For my 14th or 15th birthday my parents got me To My Daughter, With Love that was filled with poetry from parent to child. I love that and plan to pass it to my daughter when she turns 14 or 15.

    My dad also got me an autographed copy of In Country from Bobbie Ann Mason when I was 14/15 when they were building her house in my home town.

    My mom says that I’ve always loved reading and even before I could read I would tell stories, so I guess it’s been a part of me that has flourished as I’ve gotten older.

  6. Pat, thanks for sharing that story about your grandfather and his love for books. It’s really unusual for a man to have that kind of passion but it’s also nice to see. I, too, share that passion for books. My husband got so put out with me over buying books. He never understood that I needed books like I needed food and water. Books feed my soul, they lift me up when I’m down, they bring so much enjoyment. I can’t imagine a life without my book collection. I have a 1930 copy of Little Women that I treasure so much.

    Hope you have a great day! Thanks for the post and sharing more tidbits about your family. It’s very interesting.

  7. I learned my passion for reading from my mom and older brother who would read encyclopedias at breakfast!

    As much as I love reading, my step-daughter is the only one of our 4 children that read as much but I’m hoping the grandbabies will grow up with a love of reading. I read to my granddaughter every chance I get.

  8. Wonderful post! Thank you for sharing the story with us!

    I have always been a reader. I think part of it is my own doing, but I think some of it has to do with my great-grandmother. My great-grandmother was a big fan of reading and books. For every birthday, holiday, etc., she would give us books rather than toys because she felt young people needed to read more. This thrilled me to no end…I think I was born to love books.

    And she wasn’t able to do so by the time I came along, but my brother remembers how she used to take him to the library every week to get books to read…something she also did with my father when he was little.

    However, her love of the written word didn’t stop at books…for some reason some of my most vivid memories of this woman was when she would open gifts. She would read each and every word written on the cards before she would even open the gift (and then she would save the paper for future use) and as I grew old enough to read we would read it out loud together. I can still hear her voice praising me for being such a good reader.

    She passed away from cancer when I was 9, but I still have several of the books she gave me prior to her death. And, in my own way, I am continuing her tradition by giving my nephews and nieces books for Christmas and Birthdays. I am not so sure they appreciate it as much as I did, but they are young…maybe one of them will turn out to love books as much as I do.

  9. Pat — Happy Birthday!! There’s nothing more fun than going into a bookstore for me – and I always tease that it’s especially true when my books are on the shelf. But my love began WAY before I became a published author.

  10. I think I just gravitated to reading – it was always my escape. I too got the majority of my reading from the library. Other than the newspaper, I don’t remember my parents reading although my mom is glad to read any books that I lend her. I think it was the money thing with them too. I was allowed to spend some money once I got older and the schools had occasional book fairs (nothing like the ones today). Once I started working, I started buying books like crazy. And then when I had kids it was the one thing I would splurge on. I think we all could start our own library now lol.

  11. Growing up in my house reading was definitel encouraged. There was reading time when I was younger and trips to the library were a regular thing in my family. When I had children of my own my mother would bring a book for the kids every time she saw them and then she would read it over and over for them.

  12. Loved your post about the history of books in your family. I’ll be honest i am 43 years old and just started reading 1 and 1/2 years ago. I always wanted to read but never had the patients growing up. I thought if i would just pick my first book on something i’m really interested in maybe i’ll finish it and like it. I had gone to the Pepsi “Tall Ships” race when it was here in Beaufort, N.C. and loved it and had gone to a Pirate reinactment and after the first Pirates of the Carribean with Johnny Depp i was inthralled with Pirates so my first book was Pirates then that lead to several other books i’ve expanded to my favorites now are Cowboy’s but my book collection mostly stories that take place at the coast or the Mountain areas I like those settings the best. I can’t believe i went half my life without reading now i’m never with out a book I’ve gone to so many places in my books and never had to leave my house. It’s got to be the best hobby in the world!!

  13. My Mom was always a reader and I just loved books. My sister always thought reading was boring but now I have her reading.

    If I didn’t work I would read a book a day.

    Is it just me or do any of you just love the feel and smell of a new book?

    Here’s another thought for you… A book brought to the movies does it work for you?

  14. Sherry. . .I’m with you. I love a new book. I too love both the feel and smell. There’s nothing better than a spanking new book.

  15. Happy belated Birthday, Pat! A little late with my comment but it was one of those days.

    I’m not completely sure where my love of books came from but I guess I’d have to say I inherited it from my dad. Neither of my parents read to me much as a child and Mom doesn’t really remember when I started reading, but she does say I always had a book with me since I was really little. Dad had a stack of books beside his bed and we were always buying books at the store and at garage sales. Mom says Dad would stay up really late reading, many times she had to tell him to turn out the light or he wouldn’t get any sleep before work. I’m the same way now but my dog can’t tell me to turn the light off. Mom doesn’t really understand the need to buy books. She likes to read but her eye sight isn’t great so she can’t read like she used. She still plods through books on ghost stories and country singers though.

  16. Pat, I really enjoyed your tale about your grandfather. That’s the homey kind of story I love to read about. I wish I’d known my grandparents the way you obviously knew yours. My father’s parent died when I was 7 and lived in Oklahoma, while we lived in California. Likewise, my mother’s folks lived in Colorado so we didn’t see them much either.

    Both of my sets of grandparents, and my parents, of course, lived through the dust bowl era in the Oklahoma panhandle, and I still own part of the old homestead. Recently an aunt sent me a copy of her handwritten diary of her childhood years, and what a wonderful read that was. My mother’s family was extremely poor and lived in a lot of dugouts. I used a couple of her stories of life in dugouts in my book, TO HAVE AND TO HOLD, if any of you read that one. It’s been so long, I imagine most of the readers here haven’t. Anyway, one of the stories I loved most was how, one snowy Christmas Eve, when my grandmother told my grandfather there was nothing to give the kids, he rode 20 miles on a mule through a blizzard to bring back an orange for them each. My mother told me that was the best orange she’d ever eaten.

    I’ve loved all your books, Pat, but is there any chance you’ll have a western historical out one of these days?


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