Sep 25, 2006

On Books and Their Value

Stack of random books (Toledo, OH) I have been a reader of books dating back to a time that I can no longer remember from my childhood. With a book in hand I can journey around the planet and visit distant lands through the eyes of a talented writer.

While I have books to which I apply the label "favorite," I do not possess any for which I have a strong material attachment. The bound format itself is not what transfixes me, but rather the words themselves.

I have been one to be quite generous with books over the years, and I occasionally feel that I am being directed by an unseen force to guide a person to a particular book. On many of these occasions I have simply passed the book on, knowing that my time with the text had passed.

Likewise, there are some people in my life whose suggestions to read a particular book I always follow, because their recommendations are uncanny in their ability to connect readers and books that seem destined for each other.

While helping a colleague move a few months back, I carried some particularly heavy boxes into his apartment.

"What, are you bringing in a collection of bricks?" I queried.

The person I assisted moving replied that the boxes contained a collection of classic books that were leather bound and had gilded lettering. The entire collection, I was told, cost my colleague $10,000.

Never having spent more than $29.99 for a book in my life (overpriced college texts excepted), I wanted to see what such a book looked like. I opened the box and took out a copy of Wuthering Heights.

"Whoa - would you mind putting that back?" was the comment from the owner. "Those are really more for decoration and investment."

I placed the book back in its box and folded the lid, surveying a group of boxes that contained a significant amount of knowledge and wisdom. I was saddened that this collective human experience was meant only to sit on shelves, look elegant, and remain locked away from other people.

A book, in my opinion, is merely a useful tool (albeit one that sometimes contains great beauty), and a door through which we might pass into other worlds. The idea that a book can be some prized material possession is foreign to me, and I feel sorry for the people who are afraid to let human fingers run through the pages of their books.


Kathleen Marie said...

That is the saddest most pathetic story I have heard in a very, very long time. What a huge waste!

I treasure my books and when I moved to SD I brought them all, boxes and boxes of them. My husband understood how important they are to me. My children also love to read and have begun wonderful collections, with a wide variety and I buy the classics for them all. I began this when they were little so they would also have them.

We also inherited a huge library of books from my in-laws, which I treasure and I was also amazed that my husbands siblings really weren't that interested.

The man you spoke of should be horsewhipped! I do hope he leaves them to someone who does indeed cherish the words not the binding.

Ptelea said...

I feel similarly although I do enjoy the physical nature of old books: the paper, the bindings, the illustrations, etc. A couple of years ago, I happened upon an 1896 dictionary in 4 volumes. It is leather bound with marbelized page edges and is full of colorful illustrations. I paid $100 for the set. I inquired about having the books restored even though they are in good shape, some of the leather is cracked. The cost was prohibitive. My son is a linguist and we love to open up the volumes and read how the meaning of many words has changed over time. We are careful, respectful, BUT we use these books on a regular basis.

Mrs. Phoenix said...

At my home, all of our books are worn and have broken binders taped up. The pages are mostly bent, folded at the corner, and lined Post-It notes are plentiful. That's LOVE.

Hooda Thunkit said...

I must confess that I collect books of a technical nature in case I may need them some day, only th pitch them when technology has moved on.

I am beginning to collect some books on polish history and culture in hopes of enjoying them after I retire, when I should have the time to read them at leisure.

A world of difference fron the transient work related stuff.