When it comes to books, she fails de-clutter challenge

Published 2:18 am Saturday, May 5, 2018

A friend has challenged me. “Get some garbage bags, fill them up with those old books you’ve been holding on for years, and put them out for the garbage truck to pick up. Nobody wants them anymore—not family, not the library.”

She was probably right. I still have my daddy’s beat-up high school Latin textbook. His name and those of several of his friends were scrawled on the opening pages. Every time I opened it, I smiled. I had just edged by with a passing grade in my Latin class. Some of the scribbling in the book revealed that Daddy and I felt the same way about studying Latin. That tattered old book is worth nothing to anyone. Except me, of course.

When my late husband began writing his series of mystery/adventure books, he found a set of encyclopedias on the “for sale” shelves at the public library. I think he paid $5 for it. I was puzzled as to why he wanted it because we had several collections in our home library. Macular degeneration limited his vision. He cut out maps and assorted articles, which he scanned and magnified. He didn’t want to damage our encyclopedias, but he felt free to cut out and magnify whatever he needed to research for his writing from the bargain set. I think we had bought a set of World Book Encyclopedias in either the late 1970s or early 1980s. Today they still look brand new, despite several moves during those years. I won’t have any problems tossing the “for sale” books from the library, but can I bring myself to drop the “newest” set in a black bag?

My husband was a book collector. He didn’t collect them because they might be valuable first editions, but they landed on our library shelves because they were enjoyable reads. He prized our collection of Zane Grey westerns that had arrived by mail monthly. Then a box crammed with them was delivered unexpectedly, completing the set. Although I am not a fan of “cowboy” books, I eventually read them all. Those long descriptions of sunrise, sunset, mountains and terrain bored me after the first few books, so I began skipping them. I knew that the author lived in times when most people did not have the means to travel and visit far-away places, which explained his extensive descriptions.

As I walked through the house, noticing books my beloved bought by mail, others obtained from his favorite Florida bookstore crammed with dusty, used books, some arriving from book of the month clubs, others from yard sales and more from Internet searches, I realized the sight of them comforted me. Somehow as my eyes fell on any of them, I felt closer to him. Wherever I saw just one book, piles of books stacked haphazardly, or a small or large collection, I thought of him.

I’ve failed to meet your challenge, my friend. Please understand. Black bags must wait a while longer.