Books sometimes seem destined to vanish from modern society, like the handwritten letters that used to arrive in the mail. That makes it even harder to let them go.
How did we acquire so many books? I know I began treasuring them as a child, and when I recently began sorting and boxing, I found proof: the bookplate inside my copy of Bruce, by Albert Payson Terhune. It notes that the volume was “acquired 1962″ – when I would have been eleven years old. The book itself is even older, a 1920 first edition. (Hardly a rare one though; the same edition sells for five dollars online.)
Old books always appealed to me. An elderly copy of Huckleberry Finn from my grandmother’s house made a vivid impression when I read it as a teenager. Turning the fragile pages made me connected to a distant era, perhaps as much as Twain’s storytelling did. I began to think I wanted to have old books around me always, books my grandchildren might read.
So now we are inundated with books. Some of them came from my late mother-in-law, a faithful patron of library sales, who rarely spent more than 25¢ for a hardcover. Numerous pristine children’s books arrived through subscription services that I succumbed to, as a well-intended parent. Dozens of trade paperbacks are proof of too many hours spent in airports.
We took four boxes (the kind that hold a case of wine) to the local library book sale, and six more to a nearby non-profit. And still there are shelves full, and pounds more in boxes, waiting for me to let go. Waiting for new readers, those who love old pages.