Books Hold Memories

Now I get up very early. This morning, before coffee I managed to misplace my running watch and while rummaging around for it I heard a plinking sound. Went to investigate and discovered a couple of those pin-things that hold up bookshelves had come out. Tried to stick them back in and around two seconds later the whole shelf crashed down on the shelf below. Books everywhere (mostly Harry Potter) as well as a broken ceramic bookholder. Still sans coffee I cleaned it all up, put the books back best I could (Rowling is a bit too near Pullman for my comfort, but so be it for now), and in emptying the Dustbuster I found my watch — I’d evidently picked it up to put on and then tossed it in the trash with some other stuff. So at least something positive came out of all this.

Anyway, I’ve finally got some coffee in me and have been doing my early morning blog reading. Came across this article, one of many I’ve read lately, about personal libraries. Now I live in a small apartment and so I have no choice but to limit my library or turn into those brothers that lived a few blocks north of me. My father was obsessively anti-clutter. After my mother’s death almost ten years ago, he gave up his house and moved to an apartment near me. At that time he sold most of his scholarly library and brought just a few bookcases full of books with him. Having to go through them recently, I kept all his publications and some of the other books (an early edition of Ulysses, another of archy and mehitabel, the complete Mark Twain given to him when he first came to this country, and so forth). I’m at a loss to do with the old German editions of Goethe (two different editions) and Thomas Mann. They are in the old German script which is hell to read and I’ve already got my own copy of Goethe. Not to mention, a space problem. Right now they are still at my dad’s apartment, but I will have to decide what to do with them soon. I suspect I will take them home rather than allow them to be thrown away.

As much as the idea of the Kindle appeals to me (especially that of not worrying about running out of reading materials while traveling), I have to say I still like the sensory experience of books. When my grandmother died, it was her books I wanted most of all. Her books, my father’s, and other significant ones that I own hold memories for me. Literally as my grandmother was in the habit of sticking reviews, obituaries, and even pressed flowers in her books. I’ve got a bunch of them on top of a cabinet. They are old, in German, and I may never open them, but I like that they are there where I can see them, watching over me in a way.

I’ve got a bookshelf full of books, many paperbacks, from my youth. Vonnegut, Peake, and others I adored many years ago. I love walking by and seeing them there — remembering when and where I read them. I’ve a cabinet where I have some of my most valuable and precious books — original Kate Greenways and Walter Cranes from my grandmother and other books. I’ve a bookcase of my beloved Alice books. Then I’ve got others with various books related to children’s literature — some are scholarly, some are books by friends, some are books I have thoughts about and am keeping for the time being, and some are just books I want to keep right now.

It is interesting that life changes cause one to consider something like a personal library. Having to decide what to do with my dad’s possessions is doing that for myself and my sister. For me, by holding on to his books I feel I’m holding on to a bit of him.


Filed under Reading

2 responses to “Books Hold Memories

  1. betty

    Monica, what a somber and lovely post. Thank you and take care.
    One of the things I treasure about books is that they seem to be in a unique category. They somehow never become Junk or Stuff or Clutter in the way our other possessions do. Again, take care.


  2. I have a similar feeling about books that belonged to my father, even ones I know I’ll never read. (He was a Classics professor, and though I studied Latin and Greek in college (and laughing and grief, too), I know I’m unlikely to get through all of Aristotle, or even start.)

    I was sorry to read about your father’s death. It’s never easy. My condolences.


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