The Bit Between the Lines

(If only wee Grogu were real – and could, like, Force dust…)

So September 6th was “National Read a Book Day” in the US! And I decided to mark the occasion with a tour through the many and crowded shelves that line my little apartment. Beyond discovering how badly I also need “Dust a Book Day”, there were other surprises – not just in the texts, but in hints of their contexts as well!

Every time I move, I’m shocked (and absolutely frazzled…) by the number of boxes it takes to pack up all these books! And even though I haven’t read everything I already own, my library continues to expand with titles I can’t resist picking up, and with ones that people give me or that are handed down. So while my recent tour covered plenty of familiar territory, it was also a chance to circle back to books that were piled onto shelves in recent years without too much inspection.

I thought I’d even try to get rid of a few. Like this massive tome of a book (almost half a foot thick!):

(“Hey boys and girls! This is what was known as a dictionary!”)

Looks like someone did a lot of referring to this baby back in the day, and I’m sure it was a convenient resource! But when it’s so easy now to look stuff up on my phone, I haven’t touched it once – which is probably a sign that I could just as well do without it. I mean, it doesn’t fit in my pocket. And when I holler “Hey Siri!” at it, nothing happens. Then again, my Wi-Fi might go on the fritz sometime. It’s happened. So maybe I’ll keep it – just in case.

Here’s another book that hasn’t been opened since taking up residence on my shelf:

I’m not much into cooking so this one has never really suited my tastes – although it seems to have tasted good to bookworms! Again, I could let this one go before it falls apart completely – but I’ll bet the very next day I’d end up needing a recipe for Gooseberry Catsup and then where would I be..?

(Choose your favorite recipe – or trendy FLOTUS flow!)

Yeah, when it comes to holding onto books, I’m pretty good at rationalizing. But this may be a hereditary thing more than any failing of mine! Mum still has textbooks she used more than 70 years ago as a student at Grinnell College in Iowa, including this one on Sociology:

(Reppin’ for a solid liberal arts education!)

That’s part of why my brothers and I did just fine growing up in the Dark Ages before computers – because whatever we wanted or needed to know, Mum and Dad almost always had a book about it with key passages already marked!

(Wish I had more space for books – and that frustrates me…)

So it’s clear I’ve simply carried on the family tradition of holding onto the most important books and marking meaningful sections for future reference:

(Star Trek Blankie sold separately!)
(Hm. Passages marked with 2’s [and 11’s].)

I hadn’t opened up this collection of novelized Star Trek episodes in years! But I’ve been loving the Enterprise Incidents with Scott and Steve podcast where they’re on their way to presenting in-depth analysis of every episode of the original Trek series (heaven for a lifelong fan like me!) – and after hearing them mention these books, I had to dig mine out, annotations and all! If anyone needs to know which scenes were edited out of 1980’s Bay Area broadcasts on Channels 2 and 11 to make time for more commercials, I’ve got it completely covered –

And you’re welcome.

Well, that’s proof my love of SciFi goes way back! But my bookshelves also prove I have lots of other enduring interests – and while I’m not a huge autograph seeker, I’ve ended up collecting some cool signatures as time’s gone by! Being a history buff, I got the folks to ask historian James McPherson (nephew of a neighbor) to sign a copy of his Pulitzer Prize winning book on the Civil War. I have a signed copy of Jeffrey Vance’s terrific work on the life and times of silent film genius Buster Keaton. And I’ve got producer Howard Kazanjian’s signature on an illustrated version of the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Most of my autograph acquisitions have been pretty impersonal – some weren’t even in-personal. But there are notable exceptions! Good friend Nina Berry is the author of the wonderfully entertaining Otherkin and Pagan Jones series, and I’m a very proud owner of autographed copies – for which I didn’t even have to wait in a line!

(Thanks, Nina!)

And what do you know? I even found an autograph of Dad’s! Well, it’s just his name in a textbook from his college days up at Oregon State. Lots of Dad’s school books cover his eventual field of Plant Pathology but, having majored in English myself, this one of poetry – along with its extra-curricular aspects – definitely caught my eye:

Though Dad turned his professional focus to fungi, he still always liked to draw and paint – and read poetry too! Since the poem Eve of St. Aggie didn’t ring a bell, I followed Dad’s note to page 362 to check it out:

(Ah. Okay.)

I love imagining Dad’s sitting with this very book – maybe fidgeting at the long table of an echoey study hall or in a cramped little library carrel, trying to conjure an image of Keats’ “patient, holy man”. Although the cartoons suggest that Dad’s ever-active mind may have wandered, I’m certain he wound up respecting and appreciating this classic work –

Eventually.

There was a stretch of time when I moved on the average of every two to three years. Those were the days when I really questioned whether it was worth lugging so many books to the next apartment – but I’m pleased I always figured that it was! Because represented on the shelves around me now is a lifetime of interests, passions and pursuits that are so nice to revisit now and then!

And not only that. What a gift to discover that a few books offer more than the illuminations of their authors – they also shed a charming light on the dear people who owned them before!

Yup. They’re staying with me. Every one.

Cheers!

12 comments

  1. Hi. Your dictionary is in the same condition as mine: very well worn!

    1. Well, clearly that’s brilliant minds! 😉 We had a book case full of encyclopedias too.

  2. Love the look of the cook book!

    1. Yes, it’s crumbling unfortunately, but it’s a great example of a book from another age!

  3. I know what you mean, Amy. I still have my mum’s old cookbook that she got with her new gas stove 70 years ago.

    1. Aw, that’s great! Maybe not always the most practical – but very special to have!

  4. Mike Bonomo · · Reply

    Wonderful blog as usual Amy.
    You’re going to make it harder for me to purge my library when I hope to downsize upon retirement. I may settle on photographing relevant pages. Well, maybe I can fit my favorites on one wall. Sadly, we can’t all afford to be Samuel Cogley Attorney at Law!
    Mike

    1. Thanks very much, Mike! And grabbing some pics is certainly the practical way to go. I do love keeping my books but I won’t demand it of you. I won’t DEMAND it! 😉

  5. I’m definitely a book hoarder and a bit of a vintage cookbook collector, so I’m intrigued by your White House cookbook. I have a presidents’ cookbook from the 1960s (with delightful presidential caricatures on the cover), but the White House one looks quite a bit older!

    1. Yes, this one is from 1911! It’s really a fascinating look not just into cooking over a century ago but in etiquette and health as well.

  6. Love National Dust A Book Day! So, a year ’round celebration for us, then? Think I may need some Golden-Ball Fritters first…

    1. Yum! Well, for a long time, I think I’ve honored “THINK About Dusting a Book Day”…

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