Book Love

I'm home alone since my husband took my sons over to a friend's house to hang out. Nothing good is on TV and no new movies have come from Netflix yet.

But no worries because I have a whole lot of books in this house that need reading.

I'm one of those people that drops the $30 on the the Barnes & Noble membership/discount card and actually gets my money's worth back in a couple months. I know in theory that it's possible to walk out of there without buying anything, but I'm not to that point yet. There's always something good to read whispering in my ear, "Buy me! I have a pretty cover and I'm really well written and engaging!"

Oh and then there's my three library books that I haven't read yet because I'm reading something I picked up at my neighborhood independent bookstore, Skylight Books, two months ago. And yesterday I realized I haven't read "Dracula" in about a month so I picked that up and began reading that again for the millionth time.

Clearly, I have waay too many books swirling around. I place the blame for this book insanity love squarely on the shoulders of my parents.

I know I've mentioned before that my mom and dad have an amazing collection of books. In fact, I feel extremely covetous when I think about some of the cool books they have. Last time I was home, I about died because my mom gave me a gigantic coffee table book I've been in love with since I was a little girl. It's called "Four Fabulous Faces".

The book's about the transformation of Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford from unknown actresses to mega stars. The photographs in it are amazing and it's fascinating to read about how much power studios had over the appearance of these four women and how their looks changed over the years.

Anyway, I commented on another blog today about how I first read the "Autobiography of Malcolm X" when I was quite young because the book was just sitting around the house. I think it was stacked on a chair in my parent's bedroom. They always have had the best books just sitting around. In fact, I would not be surprised if they have 2-3,000 books waiting to be discovered by an avid reader.

So you see how growing up this way, I think it's normal to have tons of books around. In fact, I've been absolutely horrified on the occasions I've gone to people's homes and have been unable to find a single book lying about. Or what's just as bad is when the books someone has are the ones they bought eons ago for a college literature class. Those books always look so lonely collecting dust on a forgotten shelf.

It's quite judgemental of me but I tend to think it really says something terrible about a person if they have no (or almost no) books around. At a minimum, I believe it means they have no class no matter how fancy their house or car may be. I also start to wonder if the person's secretly a serial killer or in need of serious psychiatric help.

Just kidding, sort of.

The other day I'd just read about Bill O'Reilly's comment about lynching Michelle Obama and felt so mad about it. I called my mom to ask about a book I remember being in our house. She wasn't home so I left her a very vague, rambling message about this book. I knew it contained some very graphic pictures of lynchings in it. I told her I remembered it was soft cover and I described the size.

My mom sent me the following email yesterday:

Dear Liz,
The book you are probably thinking of is The Black Book by Middleton Harris published in 1974. The book was about more than lynching as you may remember. It is a folk history. There are now more books specifically about lynching. Without Sanctuary by James Allen and Lynching Photographs by Dora Apel are just a couple.
My mom's a genius to be able to decipher my message and figure out what in the world I was talking about. I'm sure she knew what book I was referring to off the top of her head. I'm doubly impressed by how she's able to throw out a couple more must-read titles just like that.

I decided to check out how much it would be to get my own copy of "The Black Book". It's out of print so if I want a version that's full of rips and is taped up, I'll pay around $45.

If I want one that's not in mint condition but doesn't have ripped pages and scotch tape on it, I'll pay around $85.

A nice copy is around $125. EEK!

I may not get that particular one but I know I'll be getting some version of this book eventually. I need to have it sitting around for my sons to discover. And maybe one day they'll have a blog and blame me for them being in love with books too.

I really hope so.


Jen said…
I've seen that book frequently at used book sales - particularly institutionally-sponsored sales (ie. university, church, etc.). I think it was a "must have" book at some point.

I agree that life would be pretty bleak without books. And oddly enough, I also read The Autobiography of Malcolm X at a pretty young age because I found it in my parents' piles of books. (Along with some other things that I was probably a bit too young for... such is life).
Toni Campbell said…
I just don't trust people who don't read. When a friend of mine recounted a date where she (a library science student) first visited the guy's apartment, I asked her how many books he had. She didn't remember seeing any. Not even a magazine in the bathroom! She didn't see him much after that!
The Black Book was a staple in our inventory when I used to manage Black bookstores. Check with EsoWon or other stores in your area, they may still have it laying around.
I've been known to quit a job to finish a book (when I was young and impetuous...)

I just recently bought a clump of old favorites.

~ Alex
I just rec'd The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I read a friend's copy when I was younger but wanted my own to take to Italy.

I agree with you. I think it's weird if someone never reads and has no books in their house.
Anonymous said…
Totally agree, I find it very strange if someone doesn't have stacks of books everywhere. Books suggest a person with an active imagination and intellect fed by all the wonderful ideas inside them. Without that mental nourishment, surely a person must have a very limited and monotonous existence? Or so it seems to me.
Jameil said…
wow! that's fab. people who don't read are weird to me. how do you entertain yourself? what do you do on plane rides? long car trips? i didn't like video games b/c it could never engage me like a book. lmao @ "I have a pretty cover." that is absolutely the reason i read 90% of the books i've read in the last 4 years. i will definitely pick up almost anything. yay for your boys getting that too!!
Anonymous said…
I ab-so-freakin'-lute-ly agree !!!

I can't tell you how many self-proclaimed "intelligent" people barely read a page of ANYTHING. Worse, I made the grave error of marrying someone who never managed to finish a book during the course of our short-lived five year marriage !

The love of books, periodicals, reading, literature, etc. is a learned value ... I am so very pleased that my parents -- like yours -- passed on that enviable trait.
Mes Deux Cents said…
Hi Liz,

I have never really thought to notice if people have a lot of or no books in their home. I suppose that would say a lot about someone both if they did have a lot of books or none at all.

My mom had so many books they were everywhere, on shelves, the floor, the stairs, and the basement. Oh my there were soooo many in the basement. I used to explore them when I was a kid. I'd just sit in the basement and thumb through them until I found one I wanted to read.
Lola Gets said…
I think that "The Black Book" is something that every Black household should have. My dad had a copy of the book, just "lying around." I would look at it all the time. I found the pictures both frightening and mesmerizing.

I started reading "Roots" when I was 7, because it was "lying around." If I had children, theyd have a lot to read too, cause Ive got books everywhere!

Marleaux said…
Oh wow where do I start. One, I love the b&n at the Grove.

I own a lil over 200 books or maybe 300, and I'm very proud of my collection. I hate when my boyfriend puts my books away, esp since they were kept in blue plastic bins behind the couch.. He didn't get the concept of coffee table books, until he saw that Seinfield episode. But I just moved into a new apt, so I'll be getting some bookcases to display my treasures.

And you would think that my parents couldn't even read. Growing up, the only book in the house was the phone book. Wasn't until I turned 20 that I started reading for pleasure and self education.

Also your profile picture on Twitter, the Cotton Pickers i think it's called. I saw that picture at the lacma on MLK day and it was kind of eerie. The girl on the right looks just like me.
Liz Dwyer said…
I definitely found some books I shouldn't have read as well. I read The Shining when I was about eight. I was scared to death to go in our bathroom for the longest.

I should check out some more used book sales/yard sales. I might come across it.

Such a good idea to check with EsoWon. I haven't been over there in a minute so if they do have it, what a good excuse for a trip.

I love that you quit a job to finish a book! That's precisely the sort of thing young folks should do... unless it's over one of those Babysitter's Club or Goosebumps type books. Glad that you came by to visit my blog. Come again!

That's a good book to take along with you for sure. Gosh, last time I moved, most of what I shipped was books. So expensive.

I would definitely find it interminable to have no books around. But I'm sure those folks come over my house and wonder what the heck is going on! ;)

They watch TV. They watch the movie on the plane or read three magazines. But all that's not the same as a book.

I really am attracted by beautiful covers and then I read the dust jacket/back cover and get sold.

Being married to someone who never reads would drive me crazy. I know some people don't like to read because they have difficulty reading -- like maybe they weren't taught properly. But I don't really care what you read, just read something!

I always notice. Without fail, I notice. Some of it is because I am always looking for something good to read so I want to check out if someone has something on their shelf I've missed. Your mom sounds like my parents. That's how their life is. But I never quite think someone can have too many books. I'm sure it could mean something odd if someone has gazillions of them though, especially if they are just for show and the person never reads them.

I found those pictures in "The Black Book" frightening as well. I definitely want to get a copy of it. I feel like every American household should have a copy of it because it represents American history and culture.

I was in the B&N over there last night. It was sooo crowded.

Poor books in blue bins. Glad they are getting to come out. I think I probably have the same amount you do right now. I always want more but we already have six bookcases in our apt.

Oh my goodness about the phone book! That's really funny! But you know, some folks just don't read. And of course, here in LA, there are practically no bookstores between USC and the Lakewood Mall. Are folks supposed to get a book at the 99 Cent Store? At the Food 4 Less?
Liz Dwyer said…
Oh, I forgot to mention, I am obsessed with The Cotton Pickers. I saw it at LACMA over the summer and could not stop looking at it. I wrote a post about it:
right here
Mango Mama said…
Los Angelista, I can relate to this post on so many levels. First, I, too, don't feel comfortable in someone's space where there are no books. I also think there's a bit of mental illness lurking about if the folks have all white walls and there's an absence of color in the house.

My parents also had The Black Book as part of their collection and now that you've reminded me, I think I'll ask my dad to pass it on to my household. He'll probably say no, but it's worth a shot.

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