Friday, April 2, 2010

Why Did I Want to Read That Book?

I recently started reading The Healing Woods by Martha Reben. The book was published over sixty years ago. For those of you not familiar with the work it is the memoir of a twenty year old tuberculous patent who spends the summer in the woods and lakes surrounding Saranac Lake, NY. She does not enter these formidable woodlands alone. She answers an ad in the local paper of a guide looking for a client for the summer. He was not expecting a her and she had grown up in the city. The two make an interesting pair.

Let me state right off the bat that many of the things they do are no longer appropriate for people traveling or camping. I've spend thousands of hours and hundreds of days in the woods and on lakes and rivers and never "let the critters wash the dishes with their tongues". But many of the descriptions the reader will find still ring true. When the storm suddenly arrives you are awoken inside the tent and can here the wind and feel the thunder. And as in real life, while the event passes quickly, the effects linger and it is not forgotten.

But as I read the book I kept asking myself "Why am I reading this particular book?" I think I now know the answer. When I was much younger I could not get enough of this type of reading. I grew up twenty minutes outside NYC. I went through every book I could find that dealt with spending time in the woods, on lakes or rivers or in the mountains. I was not particularly interested in fiction, although I did read that too. What I was looking for was stories about people living where I wanted to live, doing what I wanted to do. I remember very clearly spending a lot of time looking out classroom windows.

So when I picked up The Healing Woods I immediately recognized an old friend whom I had never met. This idea lead me to wondering if others did the same: do we all continue to read the same sorts of things throughout our lives? Now I know that I have read other types of books and many different authors over the years. Being the curious individual that I am, many librarians share that trait, I've covered all genres and done more then my fair share of deviling into the different Dewey Decimal numbers.

But I often come back to this type of read. Even though I have lived in the middle of the Adirondack Park for over thirty years and the woods are pretty much just across the street I still like reading about living or traveling through the woods, lakes and mountains.

So I'll leave you today with two thoughts: if you enjoy reading about being in the woods you could do worse then to pick up a copy of Reben's work, and if you ever find yourself drawn to a book but can't quite figure out why you might want to read it, just do it. Read the book. You might just be traveling back to what excited you about reading in the first place.

See you at the library,


  1. Thanks Pete, I just read that one too. Probably the same library copy that you just had in your hand. Loved it in the same sort of way. Did you know that July 10 is Martha Reben Day?
    Love this blog and SLFL. Keep up the good work!
    -- Amy at Historic Saranac Lake.

  2. Hey Amy,
    No, I didn't know that July 10th is Martha Reben Day! How cool is that! We'll have to see about doing something at the library.

  3. That would be great! We will have a tent down by the marker at Riverside park, and will have info. there on Martha Reben. Hopefully we will also have some samples of dramatic monologues that a local 8th grade English class have been writing based on Martha's life and work. I'll be in touch about coordinating w/the library.