Monday, April 04, 2011

My Collection of... by Barbara (Ruth)

Thank you Angela for picking this week’s joint-post topic! At first I was a bit flummoxed (GW) by the topic, as I am not a collector of things. I don’t collect silver spoons from around the world, or shoes, or handbags, or teacups, or stamps, or coins, or beer steins (although I used to collect beer mats). I have a box of childhood mementos, and a few teddy bears that were important at the time, but that’s not a collection, really, as I can’t add to it. I have a bunch of candles, but I burn those when I think of it. In general, if I’m not using it, out it goes. 

My Grampy reading to me in 1967 or 8
My friend Beth is a writer and has a blog of her own that combines baking with any number of things: travel, movies, holidays and this week - literature. She inspired me when she linked food with books, and suddenly I remembered my only real collection. Books. My lifelong obsession. 

When I really like an author or a series, I get every book and read it over and over. The better the book, the more cracked the spine looks and dog-eared the pages become. I simply can’t imagine having an eReader these days, although maybe one for travel would be practical… The heft of a book, the smell of the pages when it’s new, or even when it’s old and dusty, the joy of browsing in the bookstore or the library – these things you can’t get electronically.

Being a process person with a bit of OCD, you can appreciate that my books are organized. The more “pop” books are, once read, sorted by “keepers” (Maeve Binchy, John Grisham, Richard North Patterson) and “mistakes”. The mistakes go to the library, the yard sale, or the recycle bin, and most of the keepers go to the cottage. Some of my very favourite keepers (Diana Gabaldon, James Michener) stay here.

The second grouping of books are my “rarities”. These are the books that I got from my parents' house when it was sold. I actually wanted the bookshelf itself, so before I moved it, I set about going through the books in it. Lo and behold, there were some real treasures in those shelves! Among them, a complete set of the leather bound works of Victor Hugo published in 1888 , copies of my grandfather’s high school Hamlet and Macbeth texts from 1905 and 1908 (with his notes in the margin), an 1878 copy of Shelley’s poems, and a 1901 copy of the Song of Hiawatha (that’s a lovely thing to read aloud). I’ve had everything valued by a couple of antique dealers, and they really aren’t worth much. Except to me!

My collection of childhood favourites.
Over on the left, incidentally, is the old
Henderson family Bible, c.1881.
Finally, the third group in my book collection. My childhood books. These are, perhaps, the most precious to me as they hold so many memories. I have the full series of the Little House books, all 13 Oz books (you didn’t know there were that many, did you), the four Mary Poppins books, the Narnia Chronicles, the Mother West Wind series, all of L.M. Montgomery’s books (including my favourite which is NOT Anne of Green Gables, but The Blue Castle), 9 Bobbsey Twin books, 12 Nancy Drew books, and my mother’s childhood series called “the Honey Bunch books” from the 1920’s. Then there are my single favourites like “The Jungle Book”, “A Little Princess”, “The Swiss Family Robinson”, “The Trumpet of the Swan”, and of course, “Are You My Mother?”

I think if you asked me to pick a favourite it would be like Sophie’s Choice and I just couldn’t do it. Between the covers of these books are snippets of my Dad’s voice as he becomes Baloo or Aslan or Reddy Fox or Fitzgerald Fieldmouse. There is magic, and talking animals, and triumph over tragedy, and even a little romance (Nancy and Ned, of course). These books are my friends, and took me on journeys and introduced me to history, fantasy and eventually "grown up" literature.

I guess this really isn’t a book collection then. It’s a memory collection, as strong and vivid as any photo album. I’ll happily loan them out and you can make your own. You can even fold down the corners of the pages - I don't mind.


  1. Nice memories. I also have books from growing up. Just seeing them makes me remember how I felt at the time I first read them.

  2. Do you have The Velveteen Rabbit? A personal childhood favourite of mine! Thanks for sharing, Ruth, and you are right - no eReader can replace a book :)

  3. Ruth, when I started reading this entry and saw what your collection was, I wondered if you were going to mention The Blue Castle! I don't know if you remembered, but I loved that book too.

    I'm so glad my post this week inspired you. I loved reading about all your books!