As I was searching the catalog for a really gross encyclopedia, I learned a new word: vade mecum. In the catalog sense of the word, a vade mecum is a ready reference book. But all words have roots, and so I dug.
The other definition of a vade mecum is “A useful thing that one constantly carries about.” Sounds like a pretty good description of a book to me. This definition arose from the words themselves, Latin: “Go with me.” That’s the imperative, a request, a command. I know most words and their meanings are disconnected by now, but I like to think of it as an invitation. Maybe some scholar going on an adventure, wanting a sidekick as though the book were an imaginary friend ready with a fact or word for a weapon or tool. (Like a paper Don Quixote and Sancho Panza?) Maybe you need to survive a zombie invasion. Or maybe you’re just going on vacation, and you have room for Harry Potter in the car.
Or perhaps it is a request. Perhaps you can’t sleep. Perhaps you are having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. (Or several.) Perhaps you are worried or afraid and want to know that things turned out all right for someone else. Maybe then you would think to the book or the word, “Go with me; I don’t want to go by myself.”
Whatever the reason, the library has lots of books to take with you. So what are your useful things – what goes with you?