Saturday, April 6, 2013

Books: Library essentials

I will never own a Kindle or purchase e-books.  While the herd is distracted with that nonsense, now is the time to accumulate all of the analog books you can get your hands on, before the lights go out.

Books, real, physical books are the very best thing in the world.  They are a pure expression of modernity, the printing press, the written world, mass-produced, and yet they have a seemingly infinite variability and nuance.  To visit a great used book store is to experience the breadth and depth of our great civilization, and yet, it's all just so anachronistic, isn't it?

When the time comes, a good read will be as unobtainium as something svelte in 5.56mm.  So get yours now.

Here are the sort of books that are essential in building a great library.  They're not rare or especially valuable, but good solid material for the foundation.  They are like the brick 3-flats in Chicago (I was born in one), a broad, supporting base, of enduring value.

Let's start with Alan Moorehead.  Here a fine writer meets up with subject matter to match, the history of the West apprehending and staking out the undeveloped world.  Outside of a study of Burton, Moorehead remains a great entryway to the dark continent and points beyond.

Alan Moorehead
Anthropological study takes on a renewed interest in a post-peak-oil world.  Now reading about the Mesopotamians or the Hittites doesn't seem all that far removed from us, does it?  We may have to solve some of the same problems.  Here are a couple of good books published by Knopf.

Early human history
As long as we're going to use the Wayback Machine, we may as well go all the way and have James Henry Breasted in the larder.  The great Egyptologist was born in Rockford, Illinois, and went on to become a giant, because giants still walked the earth in his days.  Get his master text.

James Henry Breasted, 1938 ed
Sticking with history, take time to stock up on your French annales texts while you still can.  Here is a funny boxed "collector's" edition of Marc Bloch's classic Feudal Society, pubished by U of Chicago Press.

Marc Bloch, Feudal Society, 1968 printing
I saw copies of both of the following books linger at Value Village for almost two weeks.  I already had mine, of course, but I was tempted to grab the additional books and just give them, to someone, anyone, to have.  Rodale Press gardening books will serve you well.  Always.

Gardening super-duper-classics by Rodale Press
Closer to home, here are two classics from the Mountaineers Press before they became popular and everything morphed into a glossy softcover consumer trail guide for the masses.  These are first editions from 1968 and 1967, respectively.  When I still lived in Chicago, I would read Bob Wood's books on the Olympic Mountains like they were the finest travel literature.  The descriptions of the wild country were so captivating and engaging that I would read them again and again, imagining that I might one day move to this perfect place.

Mountaineers Press
Fiction is important to have as well.  In addition to the deep sets of children's classics I have been hoarding like mad, I have also been snagging other essentials of science fiction and literature.  Here are a couple of examples, Fritz Lieber and Theodore Dreiser.  Of course, both also have a Chicago connection.

It shocks me that Fritz Leiber is seldom on the shelves in the Sci Fi section of the corporate bookstores these days.  The youth of today would be well-served by reading him.

Leiber and Dreiser
And some criticism, classics, Paul Fussell and Allan Bloom.  First editions from 1983 and 1990, respectively.  I love these guys.

Fussell and Bloom
And, lastly, what doomstead bunker would be complete without a little Oswald Spengler?  The Man and Technics essay is a first edition and is actually obscure.  "Man  is a beast of prey," he reminds us.  This edition of Decline is an edited version, again, by Knopf.  What a great American publisher!

Spengler, Man and Technics and DOTW
Sock them away, keep them dry, protect their dust jackets with a Brodart.  Get more books than you have time for now.  You will have plenty of time to read them later.

Books.  Get physical.  Take delivery.  Get stackin'.

1 comment:

Brian D. Richards said...

Great post. I too cherish physical books.
No electronic substitutes for me. But I'm old and things are changing for all of us. My smart 30 year old nephew owns less than 10 physical books. But for me, my library is priceless. It's hard for me to think of curling up with a cup of tea and a kindle. Great post!