I have hundreds of them. I had more than I do now, having had to cull the herd as we moved from place to place and I regret ever giving up one of them, even a bad one.I surround myself with them, feeling a level of comfort I could never get from being around witty companions. They are a lifeline; and have given countless hours of pleasure over and over again.
And this isn’t a new obsession, this dates back to when I was a little kid. I loved getting them as gifts on my birthday or at Christmas. I used to play games with my Mom when I was really little, where I play like I was a book store owner and she was a customer, knowingly recommending the latest Hardy Boys mystery, whether she had expressed an interest or not.
Some of my favorites were a series called The How and Why Wonder Book of….fill in the blank. I had ten or twenty of those, and my most treasured one was the How and Why Wonder Book of Dinosaurs. I can remember the cover as if it was sitting in front of me on this table, and I have tried to find it on E-Bay countless times, but have come up empty. Another great series was a comic, now they would be called graphic novels, or graphic literature, and they were the Classics Illustrated series. Everything from The Bible to Robin Hood, from The Three Musketeers to Treasure Island; they were well done illustrated depictions of some of the most beloved novels and works of literature of all time. I still have one of those, safely nestled next to my Gold Key comics like Sargent Fury, or Tales of Suspense. I like to take it out and look at it every now and then, but am afraid to handle it too much as the paper it was printed on was thin and fragile. But boy when I do, it takes me back. And the amazing thing is that it is still fascinating, still contains information I find interesting. It reminds me of how much there is to learn about the world, how much I don’t know, how much I want to.
And I guess that is the fascination with books; with writing. They are time machines and can transport you to the foggy streets of London’s East End hunting down Jack the Ripper, or to the frozen wasteland walking alongside Perry or standing sweating in a wool uniform beside Longstreet as he looks up the slope to Cemetery Ridge. You are there.
There are some books I re-read each year. In Springtime it is The Killer Angels by Shaara, in Summer, Moby Dick, and in fall well you have to know it’s Stoker’s Dracula; brilliant and to this day the most frightening book I have ever read. And of course the Yule Tide belongs to Dickens. All good warm close friends.
I don’t know what I would do without my books. And I don’t know what to do with all of them as I near the end of this silly journey. Hopefully I can pass them along to another young person to discover the magic that is in those well worn pages.
For now, they keep me company. Like a good visit with friends or family, as rare as they have become, I never want the evening to end, just like I never want to get to the last page. The journey is just too much fun. But therein lies the difference; with a friend’s visit or a family gathering, it is a one time event until hopefully the next one. With book, you just flip the pages, go back to page one, and start on the adventure all over again.
It is one of the few ways to beat time and live forever.