Thursday, July 28, 2011


My home is currently run by a shipping container overlord. Let's just call him "Darren" for now. He roams the house looking for things to put in the next yard sale or sneak in the trash. Usually I am right by his side, suggesting things for him to sink his claws into. But one day I looked at my bookshelf. My stuffed to the gills, no room at the inn bookshelf... and also the underside of my bed, and perhaps a few corners of my closet. I saw my babies, er, I mean my books, and I had to start making some tough decisions.

It's easy to toss current trade paperbacks into the yard sale pile, they're quick money. But then you look at the stack of books from the Christian bookstore and you can trace the fads and feelings of the past 10 years in one glance. You sort the good from the bad and wonder if it's ethical to stick crummy books in a yard sale... buyer beware!

The hard part is deciding what to do with the classics. You sort the common from the obscure and wonder if anyone will pick up your copy of Confessions of an English Opium Eater (they make you read obscure stuff in college). Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontes, they're cheap, you can find plenty of copies of them in used bookstores everywhere. But what do you do with the books attached to memories? The good memories (our tattered copy of Seinlanguage, read and re-read until pages fell out) or the bad (I read Grapes of Wrath while nursing baby Jason. If I had read the last page first, I never would have picked up the book!).

I've bounced around the idea of going digital. Please let me know if you have a preference (Kindle, Nook, iPad). I'm not sure if I can give up the romance of the traditional book. I love to fold over corners to mark my spot, I write notes in the margins and I remember a summer read by the way water splashed from the kids in the pool crinkles the pages. A traditional book I can loan out to friends without worrying about getting it back (which I discovered has significantly reduced the number of books that I THOUGHT I had!).

While sorting through my stacks I picked up Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. Genius. The first line: "Then there was the bad weather." The whole book is a travelogue, biography of ex-pats, an ode to French food, and an instruction manual for aspiring writers. The Sun Also Rises springs from conversations with Gertrude Stein as described in A Moveable Feast. The Lost Generation, everything you ever wanted to know about bull-fighting and Spain, beautifully captured in over 200 pages of dialogue. I love this guy but most people only think of The Old Man and the Sea, a high school student's worst nightmare. I think it may be because we are so impatient for him to hurry up and catch the fish, that we don't appreciate the struggle. I really wanted to name one of our kids Hadley, the name of his first wife, but Hayden was a nice compromise.

Another love of mine is Steinbeck. He's gritty and real and a local guy. I think East of Eden is my favorite. Again, in school you have to read The Red Pony or Of Mice and Men, but going beyond the required reading can be so rewarding, it's worth the effort.

It's hard to think of these gems left out on a yard sale table for people to pick through, so maybe a few favorites will find their way into the nooks and crannies of boxes and suitcases. Just don't tell Darren ;)

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