Monday, January 3, 2011

On the shelf

by Alice Valdal

Did you get a new book for Christmas?  In my house, that in-between-time at the end of December and the beginning of January is often filled with reading.  Since I try to eliminate something old when I bring something new into the house, the treasure trove of new books, means a purge of the bookshelf -- and that can mean trouble.  Most of what's left on my shelves falls into the "keeper" category.  Can I part with these old friends?  Replace well-thumbed reference books with a click of the mouse?  I like my books.  I like the feel and smell and weight of them.  Clearing a bookshelf is like examining my soul.
My shelf includes several copies of the Bible, a dictionary, a thesaurus, a Bartlett's Quotations, the Oxford Book of Canadian Verse. I've a complete set of Shakespeare's works and two copies of Christ and the Fine Arts. The latter has more sentimental value than practical application, but my bookshelf is large enough to accommodate memories.
I've several books by L.M. Montgomery, I fell in love with Anne of Green Gables at an early age. Lloyd C. Douglas and Taylor Caldwell are also there. They may be out of date, but I find those two authors write gripping stories with a strong Christian message that resonates with me.  Jan Karon's Mitford stories bring a smile.
Stewart McLean and his Vinyl Cafe stories are among my keepers. McLean's writing is witty and entertaining, but there is a profound kindness in his stories that makes them worth reading over and over. W.O. Mitchell's Who has Seen the Wind as well as his Jake and the Kid stories are perennial favourites. Alice Munro is on my shelf because she captures the essence of being a girl growing up in Ontario.  The list is long, but that's a start. 

So here's my question.  What's on your keeper shelf? In the age of e-books, print-on-demand and mass-market paperbacks, what books spoke so strongly to you that they remain on your shelf, even after you've done a purge and carted a load of tomes to the thrift shop?  As you've changed jobs, gone away to school, moved house, and developed new interests, what books, worn and tattered, still grace your keeper shelf?
Alice Valdal sings in the choir at SPPC, directs the Living Flame, loves to read and, so far, prefers paper to electronic books.

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