Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Life In Books

Moving brings home to me more clearly than anything else the extent to which books play a major role in my life. For the past several weekends my girlfriend and I have been making frequent trips in our cars over to our new place in Abita Springs with boxes of "stuff." 75% percent of that stuff has been books, and 90% of those have been mine. Every kind of genre is represented, from the garish to the literary, from the west that never was to the future that never will be.

Many of those boxes hold dreams for me. I remember when I wanted to be John Carter of Barsoom, or Dray Prescot of Scorpio, or Flandry of Terra; I think it was just yesterday. Other boxes are full of books I haven't yet read, but which I will get around to if I have enough time on Earth.

Sometimes I think I ought to cull my books a little, strengthen the herd by getting rid of the weak. But the few times I've attempted it I've always regretted it. Even if I don't like a book, I find that I have to keep it around because some day I'll want to refer to it, even if it's just to pan it. I still have some of the first books I ever bought, back when my grade school had a reading program and you could get them for 25 cents each. I also buy books that I once checked out of libraries or that friends had loaned me. I didn't have much money in the old days so I scrounged for reading material however I could. Now that I have a bit more disposable income, I find I enjoy spending it on those pleasant memories from the past.

I often wonder if mine will be the last generation to treasure books so highly. My 19 year old son doesn't read much. He certainly doesn't collect books. His friends are the same. Most people today who see my collection express either amazement or amusement. Not many of them suffer envy. I'm already considered an eccentric because of how much I read and how many books I own. I wonder how long it'll be before I'm treated like the little old lady with 72 cats, how long before I become the: "creepy guy with all the books who keeps to himself?"

I think I might enjoy the role.


cs harris said...

A lovely post, Charles. I, too, still have my 25 cent books from grade school. Now that my kids are long past reading them I tell myself I should at least get rid of those, but I can't. The one I feel sorry for is Danielle. Someday she will inherit my books and Steve's books, and I know her: she won't be able to get rid of any of them. Of course, many of my books were my father's, so on it goes...

Sphinx Ink said...

Charles, your description of your book collection, the books you've kept, and why you've kept them, mirrors my own. Like you, I tried to instill a love of reading and books in my child--but despite all my efforts, my daughter does not love to read and does not love books. The books I collected so happily all my life won't have anyone to love them as I have. But then, if my daughter has a child, maybe that child will become a booklover...after all, don't traits skip a generation? Maybe my grandchild will appreciate my books.