Thursday, November 11, 2010

Old Friends Among the Books

I grew up surrounded by books.  They lined the shelves in the family room, the most impressive looking were used as literary decorations in our living room, more books filled the shelves along the hallway, and my room was cluttered with them.  As my parents moved, first to Hampton Bays and then to Florida, they kept passing along more of the family books to me.  My mother figured that I’d take care of them.

I’m talking about books that have sentimental value – not genuine “rare book” value.  But for me, sentimental value is plenty real.  These are books that shaped who I am.

Here are some of the family books that I particularly value:

Tarzan and company:  Edgar Rice Burroughs!  Books by the prolific author of Tarzan of the Apes came at me from both sides of the family.  I found Burroughs’ At the Earth’s Core in my grandparents’ house (mother’s side) when I was around 10.  I loved it.  We found more Burroughs books in their wonderfully cluttered storage rooms, and then it turned out that there were even more Burroughs books left behind by my dad at my other grandparents’ house.  I claimed them all.  These books are early hardcover editions, mostly from the 1920s, but nothing overly valuable like the original pulp magazines would be.

The Spencer Press: World’s Greatest Literature:  I suspect that my mothers’ parents may have bought this 20-volume set of literature classics more for show than for actual reading.  But my mother loved them as she grew up, particularly the Best Loved Poems (now, unfortunately, lost) and Edgar Allen Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination.  Their Spencer Press edition of Shakespeare plays is still the one
I reach for when looking for a fast quote.

The Story of Civilization:  Decades in the writing, Will and Ariel Durant’s magnificent 11-volume history of the world awakened a love of history in me at an early age.  I never read them through in order, but I’ve pored over great swathes of each of them.  Absorbed early, Will Durant’s approach to history and philosophy has profoundly influenced the way I view the world.

There are many others, too, but these are the books that I plan to focus on over the next 10 days.  If I can save these, I’ll be happy.

© 2010 Lee Price

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