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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Velveteen Books by Andy Scheer

Sometimes the marks of a book's influence are obvious. Like the 1982 19th printing of Sunset Favorite Recipes my wife used Thanksgiving morning.

Nearly thirty years ago, when we were newlyweds, my parents had given us the book. Now the covers are held together with tape, the corners are frayed, and the pages are covered with thirty years of spills from helping feed four generations of family and countless guests around our table.

As the Christmas season begins, I think of two other gifts of milestone books. Though less worn, they influenced me deeply.

Christmas morning when I was ten, I unwrapped a hardcover edition of Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdal. Through multiple re-readings, this epic true adventure baptized my imagination with the power of narrative nonfiction—and awakened the idea that someday I might also write.

Christmas morning three years later, I unwrapped another hardcover treasure: the current Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. It contained nearly every word I'd need through high school, college, seminary, and my work as a professional writer. In the past decade I've replaced it with a more recent edition, but the tradition remains unbroken. (With its thumb tabs, I find it as easy to use as an online dictionary. But more dangerous, as each page is filled with distracting readings about other words.)

No wonder that when I think of giving a lasting gift, I often think of books.

9 comments:

Amanda Stephan said...

Great post.
I can completely relate. I just went to Barnes & Noble and purchased a new cookbook (it has plastic page protectors - oh the joy!) and while I've used it and enjoy it very much, I still find myself picking up the old Better Homes & Gardens we were given for those 'we're having company, so everything's got to be perfect' moments. I guess old habits are hard to break, right?

Any particular books on your wishlist this year? Mine is overflowing...

Meghan Carver said...

The dictionary is a wonderful gift. My college friends thought I was an oddity when I would look up a word in my red collegiate dictionary and get lost for the next hour.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

I don't have the best associations with dictionaries, since our fifth grade teacher once told our unruly class to copy it, starting at "A." Of course, we didn't even finish the A's, and the class remained unruly!

I loved reading the World Book Encyclopedias as a kid; in particular, reading all about dog breeds and Norway and Lapland. Too bad our kids won't get to read those, since they're outdated now and everything's on the internet. I do still read things from the Childcraft books to them, though.

I'm finding that I may have ten books on my PC Kindle, but I'll pick up a hard-cover book much faster. Enjoying an older copy of Anna Karenina right now.

Diana said...

One Christmas I received a hard copy of Little Women. I still have it. Since then many books have been received. All I consider friends and can not part with :-)

Audrey said...

One Christmas when I was 10 years old, I received The Shirley Temple Treasury that had photos from all of the Shirley Temple movies. Since I believed that I was going to be the next Shirley, I read this book over and over. I imitated her poses and recited some of her lines...I even sang The Good Ship Lollipop for my aunt and uncle. I am stunned that I am 63 years old and no one has discovered me yet! Ahh.. the power of books and their memories.

PS...I just checked on Ebay, and I can buy this exact book for $9.95...I might just do that!

Terry Burns said...

Books make great gifts. Shameless promo - the books of all my clients are available through my client bookstore at http://www.terryburns.net/Press.htm

I still have collections of books in my library that mean a lot to me including many of my childhood books. My grandkids may read them but they can't HAVE them. Not until after I am gone anyway. And of course there is my leather-bound complete set of Louis L'Amour.

Katherine Hyde said...

When I was in college, my father gave me a copy of Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook. It wasn't the book itself I treasured as much as the knowledge that my father considered me enough of an adult to read it.

Rick Barry said...

Perhaps I'm simply old enough to be tactile-oriented when it comes to books, but it's hard for me to imagine a future where, 40 or 50 years from now, someone will pull out a cracked and dented device and say, "This holds the first ebook I ever downloaded!"

Of course, I'm happy when someone buys an ebook I've written, but for my personal collection, genuine paper remains special for holding and reading.

Andy Scheer, Hartline Literary said...

But with an e-book, as opposed to a mass paperback, you don't have to try to figure out a way to keep it propped open while you eat your sandwich.

On another note, I appreciate that people have grasped the association of the title, which I decided to use without explanation.