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December 18, 2009

Susan Shapiro Barash: For the Love of Books

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Susan Shapiro Barash, author of TOXIC FRIENDS, muses on fond Hanukkah memories and passing on a love for the written word from generation to generation.

Growing up on a barrier island on the Jersey shore, there were no bookstores. The big treat in our family was to come to New York to visit our grandparents and to walk along Fifth Avenue, stopping at the Doubleday bookstore. The rich selection of books was enticing and exhilarating, and I attribute my love of books to those early days in this particular store.

At holiday time, my parents would shop in the city and bring gifts back home. I was always asked what I wanted for Hanukkah, and I always wanted books, relishing the thick gold wrapping paper with "Doubleday" scrawled across it in a black ink and the anticipation of reading everything from Louisa May Alcott to Yeats to Jane Austen, depending on the year. My senior year in high school, my mother asked me what books I wanted, and I chose THE MILL ON THE FLOSS and THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. Of course she came through, and those very books stand on my bookshelf still, through marriage, children, divorce, and remarriage.

If we fast forward to today, each of my three children would describe their own similar, if not identical, romance with books. And so, each year for Hanukkah, when I ask them what they want and the book orders come in, I know that despite our changing world, the vicissitudes of the internet and the advent of the kindle, that the sheer joy in unwrapping a book (now wrapped in Barnes and Noble gift paper) prevails, and the unmitigated experience of reading it remains.

-- Susan Shapiro Barash

Join us tomorrow, as Masha Hamilton reconnects with long-departed loved ones with the help of a beloved family cookbook.