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My Books

by Rima Magee

 

What does one do with a thousand or more books collected throughout a lifetime that has spanned eight decades?

Before I moved into my present home in a mobile home park for seniors, I lovingly obtained and built bookcases to house them. The catalogue, that took months to assemble, was ensconced in a three-inch ring binder — by subject, by title, by author.

Here, I ran out of room. Especially since I continued to collect more and more books.

One of my septuagenarian girlfriends scoffed at my dilemma. She had wisely given away or sold all her hard cover books and buys only paperbacks which she also gives away as soon as she reads them. "Why read a book more than once?" she wonders.

Well, there are some books that bear reading only once and some that are discardable after reading the first ten pages. But I have many that I have read more than once, or twice, or even five times, finding some new pleasure in their pages.

To me, a book is a place to go. I am familiar with many of the locales, having traveled much throughout the United States in my younger years. But I have never been abroad except through books which have placed me in the English countryside, the truly Emerald Isle, the French provinces, the chilly whiteness of Russia, the wilds of Africa, and every other place on earth an author has described in vivid, sometimes poetic, prose. I have dwelled, many times, in the Venezuelan forest where W.H. Hudson told the tragic story of Rima, the bird girl — my namesake.

I have met many kinds and types of people — from Jean Auel's prehistoric adventurers to Ayn Rand's designers of utopian dreams. I look forward to reading and re-reading the books of authors like Nicholas Sparks and James Michael Pratt who draw detailed mental pictures of ordinary people with deep human emotion. Like David Westheimer, who treats his whole war experience with sometimes deadly humor. Like those who propound my own theory that ghosts stick around sometimes to help the living.

So I have books crowded onto shelves, piled in corners, stuck haphazardly in boxes stored on the enclosed screened porch. There are even a few books written by me (still in manuscript form, probably never to be published) alongside those of authors of classics, contemporary novels, favorite mysteries and poetry. Also alongside are thick scrapbooks of my published non-fiction magazine articles and newspaper stories.

My husband was a Civil War buff and there are a couple of dozen books on every facet of that struggle. He was a member of a Navy Underwater Demolition Team (now known as SEALs) during World War II, and books on that subject abound. He is no longer here and war stories are not of great interest to me except for their historical value. They are worth keeping for that reason alone since truths about wars seem to vanish as participants turn to dust and political memories diminish.

When I became interested in religion about 40 years ago, I started looking at comparative religions and collected the works of Mary Baker Eddy, the Book of Mormon, the Koran, the Torah, Thus Sprake Zarathustra, and other philosophical texts that gave me an insight into Man's hunger for peace beyond this world.

But who would care about my dusty tomes? Not the public library. They prefer contemporary works complete with dust covers. Not the old book stores. They want first editions only, in excellent condition, complete with dust covers. I can't even sell them at garage sales. Or give them away.

Most of them, now, will be packed in sealed boxes and catalogued for my grandson who may have time to read them someday, or pass them along to his children. That may be awhile for he is only 20 and thoughts of marriage and family are far, far away.

Old books with ragged bindings (some dating back to the early 1900s, a couple printed in 1875), mysteries, histories and philosophies, novels and biographies, poetry and short story anthologies, first editions and 20th editions, hard covers and paperbacks. Sigh!

I have lived with them and they with me for almost 80 years. As I look at the piles and wonder what to do with them, they seem to look sadly back at me. When I'm gone, they'll still be alive — but where? I have no answer.

I can't bear to think about it.

The immediate solution? I pick up one of the books, settle down — and read. The sorting can wait.

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