Wednesday, December 15, 2010


My mother was a voracious reader. She favored fiction. My father read also, but non-fiction works were more to his liking. Every home I moved to as a kid, many boxes of books followed and were grunted out of the moving trucks. Years later when I became a mover myself, I appreciated the work those guys did when they off loaded so many boxes of books. Moving the big stuff, furniture, swing sets, appliances were one thing. But what wears a mover out are the boxes. Especially boxes of books.

The home I live in now became the final resting spot for the books that survived those many moves throughout my childhood. Add in the multitude of who dunnits my mom accumulated as hers and my father's lives wound down and I would say I live in a house that no moving man would care to enter. I performed a less than accurate inventory once and just my books alone hovered in the thousand range. Combine all the others and I would guess I am surrounded by over two thousand books.

I have an ancient complete collection of Dickens' works my Aunt Helen willed me. There the 1972 World Book Encyclopedia collection gathers dust on a set of shelves.  There is a collection of Mathew Brady's photographs bound in cracked leather bindings.  I have almost all of Steinbeck's works which I have worn out for the most part.  Coffee table books, obscure electronic books, and way to many out of date atlases and old dictionaries.

A collection called "The Great Books" sits in it's own bookcase. Housed within the bindings are what some editors from Chicago consider the greatest written works of western civilization from Homer to Adam Smith.  According to the door to door salesman who knocked on our door back in 1961 or 1962 in Tampa, Florida, if we ordered up a set, we would be the first people in Florida to own "The Great Books".  Can't say whether that was true, but I remember him saying it.

I am pretty sure my father waded through all 50 or so volumes.  Felt it was his duty since they cost so damn much.  My mom tried, but couldn't handle it.  Me, well, I read a few but for the most part just liked having them around.  I was into SciFi and the boys in Chicago did not consider it a genre worth the match to spark em up in a bonfire.   My collection of SciFi is huge.  Besides, old dead poets did nothing for me at the age of 12. 

All of these unread books now sit patiently, quietly and at a attention.  All are but ornaments and clutter that fill the spaces between the furniture.  Why don't I get rid of them?  I haven't cracked one of them in quite awhile.  And I am in that stage of life when sensible people begin the chore of offloading the crap they have collected over the years.  Besides with almost every one of the titles available now as a download from the Internet, of what use are they?

I have tried to imagine my home devoid of the rows of books I live with now.  Bare walls and clean flat surfaces with maybe a magazine or two to break the monotony.  That image scares the Hell out of me.  I grew up with this mish mash of words tucked here, there and everywhere.  From my earliest memory, there was always a book within sight.  To take that away and replace it with sterility is akin to a kind of mental castration. 

Keep it 'tween the ditches................................................


The Blog Fodder said...

I had to leave most of my books behind when I moved to Ukraine but have been slowly bringing them over a box at a time. My oldest daughter had to move them too many times and laid down the law, so I did sort down a few boxes for book sales. They were and are the collection of a lifetime. Mostly history. I suppose a thousand would be close at peak. It is hard to part with books. Even ones I read once and will never again and many I have not yet read saving them for my "heart attack recovery".
My son took a lot of them as we share some tastes in books (LeCarre and histories of the two great wars of the 20th century) though his collection runs more to the great novels.
I appreciate your feeling for books and I understand it completely. Keep them till you die then you won't have the heartache of sorting and disposing.

muddleglum said...

I've let go of thousands of my own books over the years. I moved 20 times in one ten year period, for one, and was never enamored with paper—I toss any book when I download it from the 'Net.

But you are different and my heart bleeds for you. What you need to do is to build/place bookshelves along the inside of the outside walls.

There. See? Good thick insulation. You burn less fuel and generate a smaller carbon footprint. You now have a positive reason for keeping those books—saving the world from global warming.