A Living Book
We've borrowed this term from British educator, Charlotte Mason (1842-1923). Miss Mason developed a rich philosophy and method of education, one of the key principles of which was the use of living books in teaching children.
In short, a living book might be a picture book or a lengthy tome, but it is never a detached textbook. Living books can be found across all sorts of genres, coming from people in vastly different times and places. They can be fiction or non-fiction. What is common to all living books is literary quality. The words are written well. Living books are compelling for child and adult alike, because they are not patronising or dumbed down. Even when they are simply written, the ideas are not simplistic.
A typical text book will present just the facts in a passive voice, trying the minimise the sense of authorship (because that might sound less objective and reliable). In a living book, we still get facts and information, but the facts are written into the fabric of a story.
The well crafted words carry us along to see, feel, smell, hear, taste things -and think about things- in a new way. We come away knowing more, and caring more. We don't always agree with that author, but we are at least provoked. Living books generate a living response, as our minds feed on living ideas. These are the books we collect.