Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Save That Book by Andy Scheer





If you had to evacuate your home, what handful of books would you save?

This past week as a wildfire threatened the west side of Colorado Springs, the question of what to save became very real for some 30,000 residents. As neighborhoods fell under “pre-evacuation” status, people were advised to take key items if they had to flee. The suggested list included financial records, legal documents, prescriptions, spare clothing, pet food, and personal hygiene items.

According to the Denver Post, Ted Stefani, an Army surgeon who recently served in Afghanistan, had time to save their dog, the title to their car, computer hard drives, birth certificates, mementos from Iraq and Afghanistan, a baby blanket, and some clothes.

After he reunited with his wife and young son, they realized he'd forgotten a few key items. Fortunately they could replace their son's favorite teddy bear. And the two books the boy needs to hear each bedtime are still in print: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (1947) and Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt (1940).

I'm grateful I wasn't displaced. Unlike the Stefani family and many others in Colorado Springs, I didn't lose my home. But their experience made me consider what items I'd try to save. Professionally, my netbook, flash drive, and portable hard drive would top my packing list. I'd also like to save a few photo albums from my pre-digital days. I'd hate to have to reassemble the collection of 45 rpm records I use when I call square dances. But I've already converted my favorite LPs to digital format on my portable hard drive. And I've never gotten into the habit of writing notes in Bible margins.

But books? My granddaughter's nursery doubles as a repository for a fairly extensive collection of signed first editions by a few twentieth century authors. If I could save only one, I'd rescue an autographed first edition of a $1.25 mass paperback released by Pyramid in 1973: The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler. (The current market value is somewhat higher.) I prize the book not simply because of its condition and moderate rarity, but also because it was a generous gift from a friend and fellow writer.

After that, perhaps I'd save a copy of the quirky children's book Rennet Dessert Is Nice by Pat the Bunny author Dorothy Kunhardt. Or maybe some original Tom Swift books that were my father's when he was a boy. With so many titles, the choice is tough.

What about you? If--after loading your family and pets, essential documents and computer, some clothing and supplies--you still had room for two or three books, what would you take?

7 comments:

Cora Allen said...

Glad to hear you are safe, Andy!

I'd take all my James Herriot books and a cookbook by home economist Meta Given published in 1942. It belonged to my late mother and has her handwritten notes throughout.

Kathryn Elliott said...

Oh – that’s a tough call. I’ll give it a try.
I suppose the first would be Etiquette by Emily Post. My tattered, yellow-paged copy was passed down by my Grandmother, the Thank You Note Queen. Second would have to be Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I remember feeling so “adult” when I selected it for my summer reading project in 6th grade. The last is a no brainer, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. The first story I read to my children, and although the pages are caked with strained peas, the memories are priceless.

So glad you are safe and sound!

Rick Barry said...

I pondered this during an early morning walk around the neighborhood. Many enjoyable books came to mind. A few are antiques, or have author signatures, or came from relatives who are in eternity. In the end, though, I would still go with your thought to preserve photo albums from pre-digital days. These contain vivid memories of special people and special events I could never replace.

Thanks for a thought-provoking exercise, Andy.

ed cyzewski said...

This is an interesting topic to consider, especially in light of ebooks. It makes me realize that hard copies of books certain can have some significant value, but then again, there are only a small percentage that I would consider "must-haves." I'd probably grab my autographed copy of Grace Eventually by Anne Lamott, Renewing the Center by Stanely Grenz, and my NT Wright books with all of notes.

sally apokedak said...

You call square dances? How awesome is that? Square dancing is so much fun.

And I'm glad to hear your home was spared.

I loved this post and your question.

I have several autographed books that I would love to save, and a few very old books--Five Little Peppers, a first edition Mother Goose and a first edition David Copperfield--but the book that means most to me, which cannot be replaced, is The Charlatan's Boy, by Jonathan Rogers. He wrote a personal note in it, crediting me for reminding him of why he writes (for his readers), thus, spurring him on to finish the book. He's one of my favorite authors so that note means a lot to me.

Andy Scheer said...

Yes, I've been calling old-style square dances for some 30 years, a craft I learned from my father. Some years after the close of the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in Estes Park, Marlene has asked me to call a square dance for the conferees.

Kristy L. Cambron said...

Andy - I would have to grab my Bible. It's tattered and marked up, but it was the first thing I bought with my first paycheck after graduating high school. It's been with me all of these years - recorded with dates, quotes, experiences and pictures stuck in the inside cover. (I love it and could never part with it.) Second? My collection of Jane Eyre books, just because. : )