I have two homes. One is my house. The other is the library.
Somewhere in my head there is a memory of going to the library when I was about six years old. In one of the Raleigh libraries, an enormous cupcake sat in alone in room at the very center. I would walk around the thing silently, clutching my books and wondering if I was allowed to climb on it. I also remember seeing a poster of Roald Dahl's characters and wondering who they were. I would not meet most of them for about another year, beginning with Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But for the next few years, I read my way through many books, especially The Chronicles of Narnia. When we moved to Minnesota, the dark, dungeon-like library became a hideaway. I would scan the books, trying to guess which ones my parents would allow me to check out. Many of the books I did find were ones that I fell in love with. A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Penderwicks, and The League of Princes captivated my imagination and grew my sense of humor, and I would read them over as many times as possible. Gathering a stack of fifteen or so books, I would curl up and read in the fuzzy embrace of a gigantic teddy bear placed next to the low racks of little kid's books. This library introduced me to the Dear America series and also to loads of comics. An entire shelf was dedicated to collections of Peanuts, Stone Soup, For Better or For Worse, and Calvin and Hobbes. Such riches, I thought, and took one or two every time.
At the same time I had finished nearly all the comic books on that shelf, my family moved yet again to a suburb of Washington, D.C. It was here that I discovered the magic of the teen's section. At first I only snuck in to take the next book in the Princess Diaries, glancing both ways and tiptoeing around high schoolers. Halfway through seventh grade, I petitioned my mom with the request that I be allowed to freely explore the teen's section, having read nearly all the children's books. She granted me this, and I was free to go. The world of red couches next to stacks of Seventeen magazines was mine, and I plunged in eagerly.
These days, I dump my stack of books in the book return upon arriving (always my job, since I check out more books than anyone else in my family). In order to alleviate the difficulties of finding good books among piles of YA tropes, I keep a list of books I want to read on my phone, checking for them every time. Once this is done, I wind my way through shelves of books, searching for any that sound good. A group of teenage boys engaged in a deep discussion echoes from one corner of the room, and the soft murmurs of Hebrew come from another, as a boy gets tutored for his bar mitzvah. In the library my family spreads out just as comfortably as we do at home. My sisters wander through, asking me for book recommendations, and my father spreads out with a newspaper in a chair. This is my library, a second home and portal to a thousand worlds.