Over the years I’ve owned thousands of books, so many that if I still owned all of them I could start a small library. I’ve kept a few precious books from childhood, including The Wind in The Willows (from which I would, as a child, frequently quote a poem by Ratty [“Duck’s Ditty”]), some picture books, and a volume of The Complete Poetry of Robert Frost.
There’s also On City Streets, a slim, quality paperback of poems about urban life by poets such as Langston Hughes. Based on the copyright date, my parents gave that to me when I was about nine or ten. It intrigues me that they saw a healthy interest in me about other cultures here in our own country, worlds outside of my white suburban home.
I kept few of the dozens , if not hundreds, of books I collected as a teenager, except my 40th anniversary edition of Gone With the Wind, a favorite of mine and surprisingly, many of my friends as well, who generally leaned to more contemporary literature. Of course I owned a copy of Go Ask Alice, well-worn and clandestinely loaned to some of my friends whose parents wouldn’t let them read it. You can still find Go Ask Alice, and the cover is identical to the book I bought more than 40 years ago.
As an adult, I’ve donated then re-purchased several books, including To Kill a Mockingbird and Rebecca. I save very few, but still have The Portable Dorothy Parker (such wonderful short stories!) and several of Anne Tyler’s novels (I keep watch out at the nearby used book store for hardcover editions of Breathing Lessons or Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant.) Many of the books I buy today I forward to my mom after I’ve finished reading them. In fact, I frequently scour that same used book store for something I think she’d like. She’s always looking for a good book.
I think of stories long out of print that had an impact on me, such as Garson Kanin’s A Thousand Summers. I wonder if I’d find it just as engrossing today.
I wouldn’t have room for all the books I’ve owned over the years, and perhaps it would be selfish to hang on to them anyway, when so many others could be enjoying them. Still, I’d like the opportunity to peruse that “library” and pick out a few to keep today.