The common reader, as Dr. Johnson implies, differs from the critic and the scholar . . . He reads for his own pleasure rather than to impart knowledge or correct the opinions of others. Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader (1925); one of the books I’d save in a fire.
Earlier this week, a pipe burst at Lake Forest Book Store and within minutes, the entire basement was flooded and thousands of books were ruined. Certainly this was a catastrophe, but the store has insurance and the books can be replaced. Right before this happened, my colleague and I were chuckling over “Planning for Natural Disasters”, one of the seminars offered at the upcoming American Booksellers Association Winter Institute: Why would anyone go to that, we wondered, when there are fascinating alternatives like “Sad and Dark YA Literature”? Now we know.
The flood made me think about what books I would try to save if there were a fire or flood in my house. (I’m not speaking literally, you realize! If there’s REALLY an emergency, I will not be standing in front of my bookshelves wondering which books to take. This is an academic question, like “If you could only take one book to a desert island, which one would you choose?”) Which books would I miss the most? Which ones can’t be replaced? Not many, it turns out. Most of the books I own would be easy to replace. I’d be sad to lose my signed ARCs from author events and trade shows, but those wouldn’t be the ones I’d grab on the way out the door.
The books I would want to save are books that belonged to me as a child, or to my parents and grandparents. Many are long out of print. Just looking at their covers takes me right back to my childhood. They are falling apart, with loose pages, broken spines, and missing dust jackets.
I asked my friends and colleagues which books they treasure most, and received some interesting responses.
Sue chose her ARC of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which she remembers reading on her porch to her family while on vacation in Michigan . . . she recalls her husband asking her not to read any more unless he was there! She could tell it was a classic from the first page. Molly is still sad she lost her inscribed copies of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series, but still has a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, given to her by a beloved teacher and mentor 30 years ago. Ann is most attached to her copy of The Secret Garden, signed by Tasha Tudor, as well as “The Needlepoint Book: 303 Stitches, with Patterns and Projects by Jo Ippolito Christensen. I purchased this one myself in the 80’s. I threw the cover away a few years ago because it literally was torn to shreds. I wish I could remember the cost. Explanations and illustrations are wonderful in this book. Of course, the projects are quite dated, but the stitches remain the same. I saw the same version of the book on Etsy listed as “vintage” for $9.95.”
Most poignant was Kathy’s choice: Salvaged Pages, a collection of diaries written by young people, ages 12 to 22, during the Holocaust, most of whom perished before their liberation. This is a book that should never go out of print.
What about you? Are there books in your library you would hate to lose?
One thought on “Salvaged Pages — 10 Books I’d Save in a Fire (or a Flood)”
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