Monday, June 27, 2011

For the Love of Books


I took a break from writing today to ‘fiddle’ with my books. That’s what I call it when I play with them. I rearrange and reorganize them on my shelves. I dust them and run my hands over their covers. I smile as I remember the particular pleasure one of them has given me. I doubt if I’m any different from a little kid playing with action figures and dolls.

Every genre is represented on my shelves, from the west that never was to the future that never will be. Every kind of cover can be found there, from the garish to the literary. These books 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 wanted to fly aboard the Enterprise, sail aboard the Nautilus or the Hispaniola. I wanted to ride with the Sacketts. I think it was just yesterday.

Once in a while I feel like 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 someday 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 love my Kindle and I’ve discovered many great reads that I might not otherwise have found, but it will not, cannot, replace the actual thing for me. I even ‘fiddle’ with my ebooks, placing them in folders by genre on my computer. But it isn’t the same.

I often wonder if mine will be the last generation to treasure books so highly. My students certainly don’t seem to value books. 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 relish the role. And one thing for sure, I’m well suited for it. How about you?

24 comments:

Ty Johnston said...

I love(d) my books and used to have thousands of them, but a few years ago I went through the culling process and get rid of all of them except for about two dozen. The ones I kept were either ones I knew would be difficult to replace, or were signed/special editions. I'm not suggesting everyone do this, of course, but it gave me a sense of freedom. However, I do not think it odd at all that someone would have their own personal library. I might do it again someday if finances and my lifestyle permit, but the last decade has had me moving around a lot and I'm probably looking at another move in the next year. Frankly, I got tired of lugging all those books around. And I figured if I ever had to replace any of them, how hard would it really be to do? Maybe it will be.

I still love books, and would love to have a large collection of the, but that's a game for someone a little less on the move than I have been of late.

On a related note, I'd never known the screenwriter Tidyman had written a novelization of "High Plains Drifter." Now that's a book I'll have to search out.

David J. West said...

I'm right there with you Charles, I rearrange my books every so often-always imagining that I was being a kid and his toys again.

For me there is an excitement over my collection, a sense of pride and satisfaction. No amount of great jacket art (that my computer is full of) is quite the same as holding these wonderful covers in hand.

I just found the Weird Tales w/ Scarlet Tears a short time ago and am still looking for The Sorcerers Shadow (on the strength of the cover alone-if I like the story within bonus)

Maybe I am old fashioned but I want the massive library regardless of e-convienence.

Paul R. McNamee said...

Right there with you, all.

Like the e-convenience of Kindle but nothing replaces at least one book case full of favorites (and, yes, I have far more than one bookcase...)

Tom Doolan said...

I don't think the "book lover" generation is dying, it's just dwindling. I am a bookophile myself, and will spend long lunch hours scouring bookstores for rare finds. I have boxes of books in storage, simply because the apartment doesn't have room for shelves. My wife and I often discuss our dream home, and how it will have a finished basement with one wall dedicated to nothing but books.

But, I say the generation isn't dying because my 15-year old daughter is already on her way to being a book-lover as well. granted, her tastes are very different than mine (she's a Twi-hard), but she loves her books, and refers to her Twilight set as "her babies."

Charles Gramlich said...

Ty, the last move was agony, and a lot of that was becasue of the books. THere were so many of them. If I move again I'm hiring someone. I can't do that packing again.

David J. West, the Sorcerer's shadow is well worth it. I think it's Smith's best Sword & Sorcery, and I liked all of his work.

Paul, Can you imagine if you, me and David put our collections together? Whoa!

the walking man said...

My mom only had one cat when she passed but she had over 3000 books in her two bedroom apartment. Me personally I kept one dickens my grandmother read to me when I was four or five...the rest I let the others do what they wanted with them.


I cna see from your choices you really are a fan of pulp Charles and to me that is a good thing.

Jewel Amethyst said...

I can't say I'm particularly attached to books that I have read. Once I read them, I pass them on. Books for my kids are a whole different story. I find it impossible to part with them as each has a particular history. And I just keep accumulating more.

BernardL said...

Right there with you, buddy, old cat lady syndrome and all. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Mark, I've become even more so as I've gotten older. Guess the subtlety I knew as a youth has passed on.

Jewel, Josh has the books I bought him as a kid, but many of them I've bought my own copy of for that very reason.

Bernardl, We should write a story about how book lovers save the world after an alien invasion! I'd buy it.

KeVin K. said...

When Valerie first saw my apartment, a bit over three decades ago, she found it very strange that my living room had three walls of home-made floor-to-ceiling bookcases full of paperbacks. (My library could make a collector cry -- and for one such triggered a hissy fit about the effects of oils and acids on pulp -- because I actually read the books and handled at least one daily.) Those books were lost -- or rather recycle into nests and snacks by rats that did not know climate controlled storage rooms were supposed to be rodent free. My current collection takes up only one one wall of the home office I share with Valerie (who enforces a strict lose-one-to-add-one rule to control expansion). I'm well known at Solomon's Used Books and Pat's Paperback Exchange.

And yes, every now and then I set aside an afternoon to fiddle with my books. Sort, dust, and reread a few remembered passages.

Charles Gramlich said...

Kevin, I'm not planning on leaving the house I'm in for a long time so I've really thrown off the reins on my buying lately. Not that the reins were ever very tight.

Angie said...

If you're going to be the creepy guy with all the books, I'll be the crazy book lady. :) For all that my own publications have been e-books so far, I'm with you on preferring paper books. There are books and authors I love but can only get in electronic format, and books and authors I'm not sure of so I appreciate being able to pay less to try an e-book, but if a favorite e-book gets a paper edition, I buy it.

I lost all my books, about five thousand or so, back in 1990, and I'm back up to around the same number. I'm still looking to replace a lot of what I lost. And I'm with you as well on not being able to cull; more than once I've gotten rid of a book I was sure I'd never want to read again, only to want it a year or three later. :/ Easier just to keep them all.

Angie

Charles Gramlich said...

Angie, your experience has been like mine with discarding books. I once realized I wanted to write an article on bad books but had given the bad ones I wanted to talk about away. No articl, not at least until I readded those books and had them for references.

Liane Spicer said...

I love my books. I'd defend them with my life except that burglars don't want them; the ones who broke in last year for some strange reason seemed to prefer jewellery and electronic items. Most of my books are packed in boxes because of my current living arrangement. I haul those boxes down now and then to find something and end up spending hours just going through, remembering the stories and the times in my life each represent.

Conversely, I find it much easier to get rid of books I've acquired in recent years. I keep buying them on Amazon but I'm flat out of storage space so I end up giving them away on my blog, to friends, or to school libraries.

Cyber books will never replace the real thing for me. I keep hoping the whole e-book phenomenon would just - go - away. I'll be an eccentric old book lady too. I'm even practising the crazy hair look...

Charles Gramlich said...

Liane, I know what you mean about the boxes. I have some in my closet but it constantly seems like I'm wanting a book that is packed away in one of those boxes. yet I hardly ever seem to find it.

Charles Gramlich said...

Liane, I know what you mean about the boxes. I have some in my closet but it constantly seems like I'm wanting a book that is packed away in one of those boxes. yet I hardly ever seem to find it.

Ron Scheer said...

Enjoyed your thoughts on this subject, Charles. Thanks. I've always loved owning books, even before I really got into reading them. Over the years (usually whenever I moved) I have given away a lot of them. For long periods, I've relied almost totally on books from the library.

Lately, with the intro of ebooks I've begun acquiring paper books again, like they were vinyl records - something already old-fashioned, quaint, and disappearing. They have to be hardbacks, and it's fun to shop for and find a good condition used book.

Here's the but, though. I find reading ebooks and paper books equally enjoyable. They are imaginative worlds that I happily plunge into and let the dreary, boring over-mediated everyday world slip slide away.

As for my students, I tell them if they don't read books, all they have is common knowledge, and common knowledge is pathetic. It may not convince them, but it plants a seed. . .

eric1313 said...

No doubt!

Last time I moved I brought with me several boxes containing my rather eclectic book collection. I was asked by more than one person "why don't you go through there and sell the ones you don't want?"

Hello!

I have it, I store it and carry it around from place to place, therefore I want it.

Reading on the internet might be handy (certainly, holding the control key and wheeling the mouse up to enlarge print is becoming more and more standard for me), but nothing compares to a book that I love.

Steve Malley said...

I'll miss books, but the sacrifice is worth it: the young'uns coming up have rediscovered that love of written story. Sure, they carry a library of several thousand volumes around on their kindles (or even their phones), and yeah, their idea of browsing a bookstore involves mouseclicks, but so what?

This new generation coming up LOVE to read, and I think that's great! :-D

Charles Gramlich said...

Ron Scheer, I enjoy reading on my Kindle too, and listening to it read me stuff. I’m finding that as I get older, the covers do mean more to me than they used to, so that is a little plus with holding an actual book in your hand. Good point about the “common knowledge.” I hadn’t really thought of it that way but I may use that with my students now.

eric1313, I sure do like that ability to enlarge the print myself. And exactly, I carried it with me is an indication that I did and do indeed want it.

Steve Malley, I sure hope so. And it may be true. It’s definitely a good thing if they are and I do see some of that for sure. I’ll have to do a poll with my students this year.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sadly, I think books will never be valued as highly again. They are too disposable on e-readers to value much.

Charles Gramlich said...

Patti, I agree. They are going to be treated much more casually than most of us bibliophiles treat our print books. but I guess we can't dictate to the world, no matter how much we might want to. Even in the old days, loaning books to friends, I never got them back in the condition I loaned them.

Chris said...

I love books, and I love when I go to other people's homes to see the books they have. I try and keep my horde culled, though, just because of space concerns and future moves. Doesn't mean I love them any less.

As for eBooks, I get the same out of reading them as print books. However, I have yet to feel the excitement of getting a new eBook anywhere near to the excitement of holding a new print book in my hand, reading the back cover, looking at the front, etc. I can't imagine that ever changing.

Charles Gramlich said...

Chris, yes, the actual reading experience of the ebook on a Kindle doesn't differ much from a pritned book, except that my thumb gets more of a work out. The sensory experience is definitely different, though.