A Love of Books: In Memory of Ruth Solomon

a book is open on a person's lap; they are sitting on colorful cushions

When I was a kid, I used to hang out in my parents’ den and I was fascinated with my mom’s extensive collection of paperback books that were stacked side by side along the back length of my dad’s beautiful dark wood bar. Without a photographic memory I can’t bring to mind all the titles, but one particular novel stood out – Call It Sleep by Henry Roth. It’s a story about a Jewish immigrant child growing up in the tenements of New York City. I never read it, but the intriguing title and subdued and atypically rounded book cover always kindled my imagination. Many of the other books in her collection were by James Michener, Ian Fleming, and John le Carre. She enjoyed a variety of genres, but they had to be intelligent, like she was.

I had my own early love affair with books. I was deeply into mystery novels, and several afternoons a week scoured the library shelves for the books with the red skull and crossbones on the spine. Besides mysteries, I enjoyed the novels of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, E. L. Konigsburg, and Ray Bradbury. When our Scholastic Book paperback orders arrived at school I was on Cloud 9. I would sit and pick up these new books randomly, running my fingers over the clean covers, and deciding which one I would read first.

Mom and I never lost that passion for reading. She passed away at nearly 93, just a few days ago. Somewhere between Amazon and my mom’s retirement home there’s a new book on route to her, which I guess (hope) someone else will read now. For the most part, she loved my recommendations and we’d have discussions about the plots or characters while she was reading them, and then do a more in-depth review when she was done. She relished really good writing, with a nice mix of humor and poignancy – just how I like them. Not all conversations were easy with my mom, but we could always talk about books.

Before moving to Long Island, New York to be near my sister when it became unsafe for her to live alone, she was a pioneer woman in the Berkshires, living by herself in a modest house in Otis, Massachusetts. She loved it up there, even the harsh, endless winters, when she would gather logs and keep warm and eat soup by the heat of her indoor wood-burning stove. She never panicked when the power went out. She had her stove and candles, and her books.

Mom got most of her books down the street at the Otis Library and Museum. She had a sweet, convivial relationship with the library staff there, and if they didn’t have a book my mom was hoping to read, they’d order her a copy, without hesitation. Otis is a small town, and the library is a small building with a small budget. (My mom was small too, five foot zero for most of her life, maybe four foot ten near the end.) Small is why the lovely woman who answered the phone at the library this morning, Lois Hall, remembered my mother’s name – Ruth – before I even said it. She was very sad to hear my mom had passed, and told me how much the staff loved interacting with her. I told Lois they were adored by my mother, too.

Which is why Gina and I are contributing to the library, in honor of my mom’s love of books, and the library’s generosity in providing them. Ruth Renee Solomon lived in Otis for over 40 years, and I’m sure she used the library from week one. A few other folks have mentioned wanting to do something for my mom’s memory, or for our family. We thought honoring her in this way would be a lovely gesture. Who knows where hard cover books will be in ten years, or the libraries that hold them. But the Otis Library and Museum is still there, and still giving the community reading pleasure, and innovating new ways to get information in front of the people they serve, and still trying to do the most with the limited dollars they have.

I am sure Lois and her colleagues would appreciate any gift, any size. If you are so inclined, please send a check made out to the Otis Library & Museum to P. O. Box 126, Otis, Massachusetts, 01253. Please send to the attention of Lois Hall and include a note saying your donation is in honor of Ruth R. Solomon. If writing a check is not possible, we’ve created a Facebook fundraiser where you can contribute electronically to the library in your name in honor of Mom. 

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me.


Ned Andrew

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  1. Bill Walker says

    Great piece with warm memories.

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