Passing Note: Field Guide to Booklovers | Newberry

Passing Note: Field Guide to Booklovers

There are people who love books. You are probably one of this crowd, unless you are just slumming with something unusual before you skip over to the Smurf Cosplay Website. If so, you probably know other people who love books, and know that this love can take many forms.

You have the people who adore books in an accumulative way. Once they’ve read a good book, they want a copy of their very own, so they can read it again. If it was a really good read, then another copy may be necessary, in case the first one gets read to pieces. In fact, a third or fourth copy is not unusual: reserve copies may be necessary, as some friend may need to read this book and can thus be given one of the spares (only under extreme circumstances would the booklovers risk their own copy.) These people build piles of books, and do not feel comfortable if they are not within view.

There is another kind of book lover who does not require this surrounding experience. These gentry, finding a book they really like, will go out and try something else by the same author. They seldom intentionally read a book twice. Their living spaces are rather shy of books, containing only reference books—which are not read for enjoyment but used as resources—and one or two books grudgingly set aside for rereading, because they were simply THAT good. Anything more than that would smack of duplication of effort. After all, what are libraries there for, if not to hold books in readiness for you? Gather a massive library at home, and you’re simply wasting the tax dollars spent on building that august institution.

One of the miracles of life is how these two book loving types, at opposite ends of the book adoring spectrum, seem always to come together and marry each other.

When my mother left this plane of existence seven years ago, to go and chat with P.G. Wodehouse about why he couldn’t have written a few more volumes while he was on Earth, I mentioned that it was she who taught me that stacks of books on all sides was simply good decorating. My father, who headed off to the reading circle in the beyond on Saturday, regarded her bookstacking with amazement, bewilderment, and exasperation. There simply weren’t that many books worth rereading and, even if there were, you might be cutting yourself off from something even better that you hadn’t read yet.

He did have his favorite authors, and sought out their new books with some avidity (although he knew his children would probably buy them for him on the next major holiday, it wasn’t always possible to wait.) One of the several downsides he found as he moved into his eighties was that his authors all eventually stopped writing books, as they in their turns shuffled off their mortal coils. Elmore Leonard, Ed McBain, Donald Westlake…I remember the day he read the obituary in the paper and complained, “That’s the last of my authors gone!” Larger and larger print became necessary as he sought out the books by these authors he hadn’t read yet, and the technological marvels of the Library of Congress’s books for the blind finally had to take the place of print. He was listening to one just days before his passing at the age of ninety and one third.

Well, there won’t be quite as many books to move out of his place, compared to the stacks and stacks my mother left behind. And I know exactly where he’s gone, too. One thing he also definitely shared with my mother was his curiosity about why P.G. Wodehouse wasted any time at all doing other things when he could have produced just a FEW more books for his fans.

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