Good day, bookies, stand by for book news.
A note of concern: in editing today’s blog I realized that it makes me sound like I’m 125 years old. So let me say up front: I’m not 125 years old. It’s an illusion. Call me Criss Angel.
Like so many of my fellow booklovers/booksellers, I am a collector first, a book scout second and a bookseller third. I suspect that my story of becoming a bookseller is anything but unusual, it’s probably how most people start selling books. (Unless you’re a megalister or book broker, which is an entirely different animal we will address at some future date when I can’t think of anything else to blog about) Every since I was a little baby I was a reader. At 9 months old I was flipping pages on those plastic books with the thick pages and pictures of cute animals. (Although highly improbable, it can’t be proven negative so I’m sticking with this story.) Some of my earliest memories are of reading and, good grief, I don’t mean Dr. Seuss. My mom was a realtor as I was growing up in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the days before computers and cell phones and instant communications. (For you younger readers, the answer is ‘yes, the internal combustion engine was in common use.) This meant that I got dragged along with her when she drove all over the city showing houses, previewing houses, writing contracts, hanging out at the office, etc. I did not have a hand-held game device, nor a PDA or a cell phone with texting capabilities or any other cool electronic toy with which to entertain myself. The car radio could provide some pretty good music, on occasion, the Beatles were the new guys on the block about then, but, of course, Mom wasn’t a rock and roller so we usually listened to what passed for talk radio. Fun times.
Aside- The one electronic device I did own was a transistor radio. It was big, about half the size of a lunch box, but operated on batteries as well as A/C, which was a nice feature. I spent many nights listening to the St. Louis Cardinals play baseball, with the volume turned down so Mom wouldn’t yell at me to go to sleep.
Anyway, what I did to pass the time was read. A lot. And not just any old kid’s book, either. I read history. I’m not sure I even knew fiction existed until I was 13 or so. The earliest book I remember reading was ‘The Two Ocean War’ by Samuel Eliot Morison, a dense but fairly readable one-volume account of the US Navy in World War II. I was probably about 8 or 9 at the time and World War II was already a consuming passion of mine. I’ve never known why that was true, it just was. And still is. The book I am currently researching is about a rather obscure bit of World War II that I feel has not yet received its due from historians. As a reward for sitting in a hot (or cold) car for hours on end, Mom would sometimes take me to a store over on Summer, in the shopping center at Waring, where some department store had a book section and carried the Ballantine’s History of the Violent Century series of trade paperbacks. I could usually buy one of them at about $1 each, maybe two if I had been especially traumatized by the day’s dragging about, and I would devour them pretty quickly.
Throughout my life I have heard people say that they don’t re-read books. I have never understood that. I have re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings 27 times, not counting skimming through chapters or scenes, and every time I have realized some new facet of the work that I had not understood before. I suppose everybody else is just smarter than me and had 100% comprehension right from the start, but somehow I doubt it. No, I think rather that I’m just one of those people who find a book they love and keep re-visiting it to milk every last drop of pleasure it has to offer. And that’s how book collections begin.
By the time I hit high school I had a lot of books. I couldn’t imagine getting rid of them, I might want to re-read them, so I just stuffed them wherever I could. I still have a lot of them. They were almost all history of one sort or another and I was perfectly content with that, or so I thought. End of the beginning