I keep swearing I am not going to buy any more books. I’m trying to pare down my bookshelves, not fatten them up. But on balance, I’m not adding many but I am adding some.
Most of what I add is because I cannot find them in a library within half-a-day’s drive of my residence. My local branch of the Riverside County Library caters to children and rarely adds the kinds of books I want to read. Granted, I have eclectic (maybe make that “unusual” or “bizarre”) tastes and probably not a whole lot of big libraries have them either. And since we live in a fairly rural area, it is no surprise to me that my tastes are not those of the majority of local consumers. Nevertheless….
The last book I added, thanks to AbeBooks.com, is Armies of Heaven: The First Crusade and the Quest for Apocalypse. The review of it was so enticing that I just HAD to have it. No library had a copy, or had ordered a copy, or expressed any interest in a copy. When I finish it I will try to find a good home for it, though I know that will be difficult to do. In an online review, the author (Jay Rubenstein) said the following, in answer to the question “What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your topic?”
“The biggest misconception is the belief that, at the time of the crusades, everyone understood them as religious wars between Christianity and Islam. Latin Christians understood it in that fashion – a war fought against an unbelieving enemy for control of Jerusalem, the center of the earth and the place of humanity’s salvation. For Greek Christians, on the other hand, the crusaders were essentially mercenaries employed against a rival empire, governed by Seljuk Turks. Both the Sunni Turks and the Shi’i Egyptians probably understood the crusades in similar terms. It would take the Muslims several decades to learn to think of the battles against the Franks as religious wars rather than as conflicts over the control of frontier settlements.”
I’m finding the book exceptionally interesting, not the least because the author writes so his readers can enjoy history!
The second to the last book I bought, again via AbeBooks, was “On the Pig’s Back” – purchased in a quest to read another book with “Pig” in the title. The author of this one is Bill Naughton, author of “Alfie.” He calls this book an “autobiographical excursion” that takes him and us back through war-time London to County Mayo, his birthplace, and to pre-war Bolton (up near Manchester), scene of his later boyhood. I had to investigate just what his title meant and discovered it is an authentic Irish expression meaning to be in a fortunate situation, or living an easy or luxurious lifestyle. The book was tender and touching; when I read books like this I always have to be thankful that I’ve had it so easy in my lifetime.
The books I bought before that were two that I wanted to have and keep so I could read them over and over. One was "Esperanza’s Book of Saints" by Maria Amparo Escandon, a book full of magical realism (a concept I still struggle over) and of which I understand more every time I read it, and then Alice Walkers’ "The Chicken Chronicles", which still makes tears jump out of my eyes with each reading.
Every time I buy a book I try to choose one on the shelf to part with so I can keep the size of my “collection” under control. But that’s SO hard to do.
Books I can’t part with: "Cloudsplitter" by Russell Banks; "Son of the Morning Star" by Evan Connell; "The Provincials" by Eli N. Evans; "Moon River Anthology" by Edgar E. Masters; "Stiff" by Mary Roach; "Gilead" by Marilynn Robinson; "Golden Dreams - California in an Age of Abundance - 1950-1963" by Kevin Starr; "Just My Type" by Simon Garfield; "Architectural Excellence: 500 Iconic Buildings" by Paul Cattermole; and the one that would be the last to go – given to me at Christmas of 1945 and well used since – "California Missions and their Romances" by Mrs. Fremont Older.
Do I have any I might part with? I don’t think so. Because my reading tastes are so weird, I would have a hard time figuring out where I might put them where they stood a chance of being read. I’m afraid none of my kids would think any of my remaining books are especially readable, so these have to stay on my shelf until I’m not there to read them any more, at which time they can be donated to whatever place still handles real books instead of e-books. In the meantime, I try hard not to buy more books to keep my shelves thin.
But that is a really hard job!