Copying Out Books

When my second-grade teacher was growing up during the Great Depression, she discovered what would become her favorite book at the Cleveland Heights Public Library. Unfortunately, by the time she’d finished reading “The Hobbit” and persuaded her parents to buy her a copy, they couldn’t find it in the bookstore. Undeterred, she checked out the library’s copy over and over again, determined to make one of her own by pecking out the entire text with two fingers on the family’s manual typewriter. How many authors who write for adults can boast of having a reader so utterly devoted to their work? (From Laura Miller’s NYTimes book review of ‘Minders of Make-Believe” — a terrific book by Leonard Marcus, by the way.)

How cool to read about someone else doing this.  I similarly fell in love with a library book as a kid and took it out over and over before trying to copy it into a notebook. Mine was Madeleine L’Engle’s And Both Were Young. Has anyone else ever done this?


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6 responses to “Copying Out Books

  1. I just copied out poems, not novels. But I certainly checked out the novels of M L’E AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN, all of ’em, I was utterly captivated by them! Another book I checked out pretty much every week for a year was the D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths…


  2. I didn’t quite do this, but I did type a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was ostensibly to practice my typing, but I certainly picked that book for a reason.


  3. I carried a little red journal with me all throughout junior high (not middle school!). I copied sections of text from novels, poems and song lyrics. I lost the book during one of our many moves.

    Sure wish I could find it…..


  4. Lee

    I don’t know if this quite qualifies, but I still copy out long passages – by hand! – when particularly impressed by someone’s prose. And sometimes recopy and recopy. At the moment my hand aches from Hilary Mantel’s Giving Up the Ghost. That woman can write!


  5. I once made my own book on tape so I wouldn’t have to check my favorite book out of the library quite so often. The sound quality was awful, though, and I don’t think I ever listened to it. (Naturally, I just kept taking the book out.)


  6. brookeshelf

    You were all much more impressive as children than I. The most I ever did as a kid was clip months’ worth of my favorite comic strips (“For Better and For Worse,” “Calvin & Hobbes,” “The Far Side) from the newspaper and paste them into a notebook because I couldn’t afford to buy my own bound anthologies.

    This endeavor was abandoned when I learned about used book stores and library book sales, God bless ’em.


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