Friday, August 7, 2009

Used books

I can't seem to walk past a used book store without going in. I have to look. I have to check and see. Though I'm sure I already have hundreds of books at home that I've yet to read (I've never counted them), I'm convinced there are more out there I need, and someone is prepared to sell me one for $1.25.

Every time I'm on vacation, this bug hits me hard. On past summer holidays, I've found beautiful first editions of old classics at cut-rate prices, books autographed by famous people and then priced as though nobody noticed, and vintage editions of out-of-print books by the likes of John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon in a give-away box! Those are the kinds of discoveries that keep me in the hunt.

So this year, I took my family on an exciting ferry ride to Victoria, BC. Beautiful city. Full of sights and attractions. World-class museums, a beautiful waterfront walkway, national historic landmarks. So much to see and do. And amidst all that, I made sure we found the time to visit two local bookstores. Not that they minded. My wife now loves such stores too. And all but one in our family bought books. But as we walked toward the second bookstore, the one child who didn't buy any books exclaimed exhaustedly, "Not another bookstore!" That got my attention.

And yet even as I pondered the significance of my daughter's plaintive cry regarding the prospects of another eternal wait as her family disappeared into the catacombs of another used bookstore, I fell prey. I had decided that the day after our day in Victoria would not be a commercial day, but a day out in the parklands of Vancouver Island. So we drove out of the city and surrounded ourselves with natural beauty. There's so much to see and experience on the island: thundering waterfalls and towering forests and gorgeous ocean beaches. And as we were walking together, the sea gulls happily calling us toward a sunny sea shore, the kids eager to find shells before the tide came in, I saw a used book store down the street. And before you could say "Hard cover, first edition", we were all in the store, surrounded by books once again. Sea shore? What's that?

The thing is, I simply don't need more books to read. I'm already reading about a dozen books right now. No, that's not right. It's more like I've got bookmarks in about a dozen books right now, and some of those have remained untouched for a few years. But I can't help it. I'll start a book, and then before I'm done, I get distracted by another book, and then before I'm done, I get distracted... you get the picture. The point is, I have plenty of reading material.

But that's not the point. I don't buy most book to read. I buy them to collect. I want to collect books that reflect my passions and values, whether I find time to read them or not. And I have read many, and eventually hope to read many more, but in the meantime, I keep wanting to find more. And I love it when I find books that package those passions and values in beautiful bindings with attractive covers and with old weathered pages that look as though others have shared those same passions that I have.

Call it Collector's Itch or call me crazy, but I love old, used books, and summer holidays provide me with the time to search them out. And I think I've infected most of my family with the same itch. (And we did make it to the beach, a forest and a waterfall, and to several historic landmarks in and around Victoria!)

© 2009 by Ken Peters

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