Every time I go home, I stand in front of this bookshelf and slide the glass doors open. The musty smell of old print and naphthalene balls hits my senses, I breathe it in. I caress the spines of the books, first with my eyes and then with the tips of my fingers. Fondly, gently. Every book in this shelf has its own story. A treasure chest of memories, two deep, two high.
I have this policy when it comes to books. As unscrupulous as it sounds, I believe that borrowed books need not be returned unless the lender asks for it back. The logic behind this is that if the person actually cares for the book, they’ll want it back. If not, the book is in a better , happier home with us. Well, not exactly stealing, is it? So half, ok, that’s an exaggeration, twenty percent of the books in my house aren’t technically mine. But since they’ve lived on this bookshelf for more than a decade, ignored by their rightful owners, it makes them naturalized citizens of my bookshelf.
The stories of the books in this blog are all before online shopping made acquiring books too easy and impersonal. Some of these books were picked out from a pile of tattered secondhand books in front of Sada’s vadai shop. The ones he felt were too complete to tear up and wrap greasy vadais in. Some of them, lovingly gifted by people who couldn’t actually read them. There are a few, un-returned to the library that was shutting down (I told you, unscrupulous). Some, bartered with fellow book lovers for mutually preferred authors. Some, pirated copies picked up from outside railway stations. (I don’t buy pirated books now). There are sample copies of books that were sent by publishers to my English Professor uncle . Books left behind by guests who had no space in their luggage after holiday shopping. There are a couple of books that someone had left behind on the train. There’s nothing more painful that losing a book that you’re halfway through. If those books had an address on them, I certainly would have sent them back.
I have a copy of Irving Wallace’s The Second Lady with the last few pages missing. I still don’t know what happened to the fake First Lady. I have a gilt edged copy of The Pilgrims’ Progress, antique, but unread. I have Little Women in various stages of abridgment. Right from the simplest version I received as a prize in 5th standard up to the original unabridged version I bought a few years back. And then are also three copies of Five Point Someone.
There won’t be many book reviews on this blog. Just the stories behind each little book.
http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/singapore/story/story-your-life-your-bookshelf-20131020 is what inspired me to start this blog today.