A life without books? Unimaginable!
I didn't grow up in a library, but sometimes it felt that way.
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Some of the books are signed by total strangers. A copy of "The Virginian" is inscribed, "To Marilyn Bishop, congratulations from Joe and Grace Borden." This is a clue that one of my dad's favorite pastimes was browsing the aisles of used bookshops. How many secondhand bookstores even exist anymore?Skip to next paragraph
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World War II was the central event of my parents' lives, and I saw evidence of it on shelves throughout the house. The titles "Up Front," "Here Is Your War," "Last Train From Berlin," "A Soldier's Story," and "They Were Expendable" lined the shelves.
One of my favorites is a racy bestseller from 1951 that seems to have vanished from our national memory: "The Revolt of Mamie Stover," by William Bradford Huie. It's the story of a prostitute who becomes a force to be reckoned with in the freewheeling society of wartime Honolulu.
My dad read for one or two hours in bed every night. His mind was like a stadium filled with fascinating writers such as John O'Hara, Robert Graves, Raymond Chandler, Agnes Newton Keith, and dozens of others sitting side by side, ready to speak up if their name popped into a conversation.
When my mother passed away, my dad sold the big house and moved to southern California. Many books went with him, and a lot more stayed behind in a storage unit he rented for me.
I've moved three times since then. Over the years, the library my parents created has dwindled as my wife and I sorted through the shelves before each move and decided which volumes we should keep and which ones could be sent back into circulation.
What's left is still impressive, and I've got a few special targets in my sights. I'm positively going to tackle the "USA" trilogy by John Dos Passos, and after that I'll try for James Boswell's "The Life of Samuel Johnson."
Books connect a reader to all of humanity, to people in faraway places during the cavalcade of recorded history. It would have been nice to keep every one of my parents' books within my reach, but having hundreds of them doing nothing but sitting idly on shelves year after year isn't a good idea.
The best place for any book is in the hands of an avid reader, someone who enjoys seeing words on paper, and can't wait to find out what's going to happen on the next page.