Friday, June 25, 2010


The thing about books is that they aren't just novels or histories or
whatever the subject is to me. Many of them have specific memories
attached to them when I look at the covers, of where I was when I
first read or purchased them. The one that comes first to mind is the
battered copy of "King Arthur and His Knights"  my folks bought
for me at the Stop&Shop on Gallivan Blvd in Boston when I was
eight years old. I've written about it before over on my genealogy
blog. It's the oldest book in my collection and it brings back the
memory of those years in Dorchester and the trips to the libraries.
But there's others, paperbacks that in most cases I bought thirty or
forty years ago, that have sentiment attached to them.

A copy of "Conan the Conqueror" with its Frank Frazetta cover was
purchased at a corner bookstore in Somerville during a holiday visit
to my aunt's parents. I look at that and think of the lasagna served
after the turkey dinner and of the poker games played by the women
and kids after the meal. We used uncooked beans for money. That  
book was published by Lancer Books, long out of business.

The edition I have of Edith Hamilton's "Mythology" is the third copy I've
had but it's the same cover as the one I carried through three years of
Latin at Abington High School.

There's the copy of Andre Norton's "Web of the Witch World" that
I bought in the shop in Brockton when I was taking the bus from
Bridgewater after classes to my weekend part-time job in Quincy. It's
one of a number of her books I bought at that used book store while
in college.

The summers I spent as a camp counselor down on Cape Cod are
represented by some classic series: E.E. Smith's "Skylark of Space"
and "Lensman" books from the 1920s and Edgar Rice Burroughs'
"John Carter" books. I bought them in a store on Main Street in
Hyannis called "Leilania's".  Camp was where I first read Tolkien,
and tucked away in my upper dresser drawer is a copy of the Ace
edition of "The Two Towers" which was the edition I first read,
borrowed from one of my fellow counselors. I bought my copy
years later at a science fiction convention.

I kept other books from the college years: the four volume "Masks of
God" books by Joseph Campbell, Robert Graves' "White Goddess",
James Frazier's "The Golden Bough". The edition of LOTR with the
surreal covers that formed a triptych. I had a poster of that on my
bedroom wall. History books like Toynbee's "A Study of History"
and Frye's "Heritage of Ancient Persia" made the cut.

A two volume set of Previte-Orton's "A Cambridge History of the
Middle Ages" carries two sets of memories. It's a survivor from the
days when I'd make special trips into Harvard Square and lust after
so many books. I bought them at Wordsworth Books. Later, they
accompanied me in my old red knapsack on the long bus trip between
Boston and Denver when I attended  a World Science Fiction
Convention there. I finished Vol.1 and started Vol 2 on the way home.

Memory and sentiment couldn't save every book. One was a Lin
Carter fantasy anthology. One look at the cover and I remembered
purchasing it in some department store in Norfolk Virginia during a
vacation trip with my folks. I'd finished the books I'd brought along
and I needed something to tide me over. But the rest of the yearly
series had already been culled so this one was too. Some others
I discarded because I could buy them as part of one volume
collections. So the individual copies of the original Roger Zelazny
Amber books were replaced by a single book with all ten novels
in it.

I could go on and on. I think I've talked about this to a lesser
degree before on the genealogy blog. I've also mentioned, I think,
that I wonder if when ebooks replace all paper books, as I'm
assured they will, how they would invoke such memories for their

How about you? What books would you hold on to because of
the memories they hold for you? Leave a comment, a link if you
blog about it.

The Great Book of Amber: The Complete Amber Chronicles, 1-10 (Chronicles of Amber)

Chronicles of the Lensmen, Volume 1 (Triplanetary, First Lensman, Galactic Patrol )

A Princess of Mars (Penguin Classics)
The Masks of God: Creative Mythology
Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes

CONAN THE CONQUEROR - Conan Book (9) Nine

Web of the Witch World (Witch World Series)

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I had to get rid of about 2/3 of my books recently. I was moving here
to my new apartment and there wasn't enough space for them all. It had
to be done quickly, too, since I'd already given my notice to my old
landlord. But how do you choose between a lifetime of books? Most of
them were paperbacks but there were quite a few hardcovers, because
I've been a bookseller for 21 years now and that employee discount
made buying them less expensive.And some of them were paperbacks
dating back to the 1960's. I found myself changing my decisions
several times on  the fates of particular books. Should I get rid
of all the fiction and just keep the nonfiction, or keep only
hardcovers over the paperbacks?

In the end, three things factored into whether a book stayed or
went: online availability, favorites, and memories.

Online availability came into play for the nonfiction books. Could the
information in them be accessed online. Most of these books were
history and mythology with some poetry books. While the actual
books might not be online, by and large the subjects they covered are,
so most of them went. Those I kept were favorites and have memories
attached to them. Goodbye to my old college texts! And I kept any
book that pertained to my family history.

Favorites are the authors and books I've followed for years, mainly
series in the genres: Robert Parker, Peter Tremayne and Michael Jecks
in mysteries, Jim Butcher, Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, CJ Cherryh,
Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan, Isaac Asimov and more. I kept the books
that I'd had autographed over the years by writers at signings in the store
or at conventions.

Finally there were the books that have memories attached to them. That
will be covered in the next post.

In the end, despite the difficulty of culling down the collection, I had the
easy part of the job. My sister and brother in law did the actual moving
of all the books, both those that stayed and those that were donated and
I thank them for all the work they did in the move.

I hope that the books that left are being enjoyed by their new owners!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010


One would think with all the posts I've written on my genealogy blog
that the last thing I'd want to do is start another blog. But there
are somethings I'd like to write about that just wouldn't fit there, such
as my thoughts about the music I listen to and the books I read. So,
here I am, starting a new blog.

Years ago, back in the pre-computer age, I kicked around the idea of
starting up a fantasy and science fiction fanzine. I thought that with a last
name of West, that the title "West of the Moon" was a natural. It
referenced both genres quite nicely.Apparently that title has been
taken already on Blogger, so I've used the longer version which is
the title of an old fairy tale.

As I said, I'll be discussing books but it won't be just fantasy and sf,
although a good chunk of it will be, in all honesty. But I also read
mysteries and history, and the occasional mainstream fiction book.
My taste in music tends towards folk, Celtic, and good old rock and
roll, so be warned there'll be no opera reviews here.

There it is, the beginning.