Sunday, July 12, 2015

In 1977 I Bought a 3,000 Volume Library

I have always been a reader.  My mother used to tell people I was reading the encyclopedia when I was three years old.  I do not remember this, but I do remember always having something to read very close at hand.  My real life with books began when I read an ad in the Barstow, California Desert Dispatch classifieds, "3,000 vol. library, mostly history, biography, some fiction, $1,000", and it was like I woke up, became REALLY awake. There was no question in my mind.  I had to have those books.  How to find the money, where to put them, none of that mattered.  I was completely obsessed and so, of course, answered the ad.

The books belonged to our local city librarian, a very nice man.  He was getting married, to a librarian, and between them they had way too many books.  The books he was selling were on metal bookshelves and filled up an entire room in his apartment.  If I wanted them, I had to take them all.

Over the years he had put together a decent collection of history, biography, travel memoirs, and old journals of explorers and soldiers. There were map books, old travel guides, a lot of military history, and very little fiction.  The fiction was mostly old first editions, none in fine condition.  Many of the books were ex-library  with "Withdrawn" stamped inside the cover.  It was really too much to take in at first.  I did not know very much about anything I saw, but I still HAD TO HAVE the books.

My husband did not object.  He went to the bank with me to apply for a loan.  The loan officer was our friend and she knew how much I loved to read.  Together my husband and I cleared out one of our bedrooms to make space for the books.

When I paid the gentle man who was parting with his books, I asked him how he could sell them.  He said he did not want to, they were like his children, but he had no choice.  Over the years I have come to understand what he meant by "like his children". I have grown to love some of them also.

There are many tales in our family about the moving of the books.  After a few years we packed them up (I am guessing at least 80 to 100 boxes full) and moved them to Oregon in the middle of winter in a converted school bus.  They were moved four or five times after that before I started selling some of them to dealers.  It was when my husband's work took us BACK to California that I called Powell's Books in Portland.  Knowing what I know now, I would have done a better job of selecting the books I had on offer. Powell's bought several hundred books and paid me a fair sum.  But, I have always regretted "the ones that got away".  Like these:

And, many biographies and natural history books I would love to have back.

In California, I sold more books from the original library.  When we made our last move, BACK to Oregon, maybe one third of the original library remained.  I have always acquired more books, a few at a time, since buying the library.  English Literature, literary fiction in several genres, mystery books, and travel and food writing have filled in the gaps.

Now to the purpose of this blog - - I have not read many, many, many of the books I now own and I am determined to do so.  My "To Be Read" (TBR) stack is huge.  I have my own version of "Book A.D.D."  and need a way to focus my reading.

I hope you will join me on a journey through the stacks.  It will be a winding road, full of detours, and backtracking, but there will be so many wonderful things to see.  I promise!

I love comments, and would like to know what is in your TBR stack.

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