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Monday, May 2, 2016

Gray Matters: Books

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

At the risk of sounding a bit "persnickety," I am about to express a very negative opinion of a household hint I read recently.

The writer suggested that we should get rid of books after we had read them, concluding that, "Over the years, books essentially become clutter, taking up valuable storage space." That advice might apply to casual, trashy, paperbacks purchased on impulse, but I totally disagree if she was referring to most books.

My own beloved volumes are a part of my life. Many I have read and re-read over the years. They are integrated into the décor of my living room and bed rooms. Bookshelves line my center hall.

I would like to ask that advice-giver just what she would store in that "valuable space" if she threw out the books. To my mind her suggestion says something of the sad state of our current culture. We once taught our children (most effectively by our own example) that being transported to another world by the magic of the written word was one of life's greatest pleasures. True, today's generation can seek information on-line about almost anything.

Many times, I understand, they are getting information totally unsuitable for their young eyes and minds, but that's another matter. I know a google search will produce interesting facts narrowly defining a subject, but it seldom leads beyond that.

On the other hand, a new concept encountered in a book is almost always set in a wider context and this will often introduce new ideas and expand horizons. When you have read much of English author, Jane Austen--"Sense and Sensibility," "Emma," and "Pride and Prejudice," perhaps, your appetite is whetted for more stories of her nation's rural life. So you might turn to Thomas Hardy, to his "The Return of the Native," and that great favorite, "Tess of the D'Urbervilles."

One of many examples in American literature is the famed woman writer, Willa Cather.

From her great novels, "O Pioneers" and "My Antonia," set in rural Nebraska, she takes us to New Mexico with "Death Comes for the Archbishop." Before we know it, we are led to another generation and another genre as we become immersed in Tony Hillerman's works set in that far-off Four Corners area of the world. In his incredible stories we learn so much about the native cultures as we follow Navajo investigator, Joe Leaphorn, and his younger colleague, Jim Chee, solving a series of masterfully crafted mysteries.

These are but a few examples of the way it works with books. Granted, there is a lot I don't know about browsing the internet, so I may be just exposing my ignorance. Still, I challenge any one of you to nestle down in a comfy chair with a computer screen. See what I mean? It can't be done. For that reason alone, I insist we must not allow anyone or anything to convince us to get rid of our books, and I hope most of you agree.