Saturday 2 September 2023

The Burden of Books

    I love to read, and as a result we have multiple filled bookcases in our house.  For me it is the stories that books tell that are important.  However, I have known several people, who not only valued the stories inside the books, but also the actual physical book itself that is valued.  I would just as soon have a paperback; something that is lighter, smaller, and cheaper, rather than have a hard back copy of a book.  Paperbacks can easily be passed on and shared, because they are less valuable.  Most of the books I now read are ebooks, downloaded from the internet.

    Arthur is someone that always came to our library’s Book Club.   Our Book Club is different than most, because we are just given a “Theme” and can go off and find a book related to that theme that interests us.  Most book clubs, have their members all read the same book. 

    In our discussions of the books we had chosen for the theme, I noticed that Arthur often chose what I considered more “high brow”, and although he didn’t work and seemed to live on a low pension, he often bought fancy, bound books that came in protective box covers.  Clearly, Arthur was one of those people that valued not only the contents of a book, but also the physical book itself, and he must have paid dearly for them.

    I don’t think that Arthur is long for this world.  He hasn’t been showing up for our Book Club gatherings, and the other day, he sent a message to Book Club members that he was getting rid of all of his books and we were welcome to come over to his place and pick out whatever books we wanted.

    I went over to Arthur’s small sparse apartment yesterday to maybe pick out some of his books.  I was gobsmacked when I walked into his tiny quarters and saw just how many books he had.  A large table and many shelves were crowded with books filled his main room, and they were expensive, high quality, books.

    Arthur urged me to take as many as I wanted, but I felt guilty.  I knew that they were his treasures, and it must have been very difficult for him to part with any of his collection.  I looked through the shelves and tables, picking up one, then another, “Oh, this one might be interesting”  Although hesitant about taking any of Arthur’s books, with his encouragement, I filled the plastic milk crate I had brought  with the finely-bound books I thought I might enjoy reading.  

    Arthur thanked me and shook my hand when I left with my heavy crate of books, but I sure had mixed feelings.  I didn’t really want or need such fine quality reads, paperbacks would have been preferable, but I knew that Arthur had to get rid of them, and did feel like in a small way, with the small amount I took, I had helped him out.

    Of course, now I have the burden of books on me.  I am not sure that I will have time to read all of the ones I took, but I will try.    Books used to be precious items, that were valued, and I guess in a very large sophisticated city, there are book stores that would happily take the books that Arthur has to get rid of, but in a tiny village like McBride, all of those hardbound books are a burden.

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