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)


  1. I did not read much until eleventh grade in high school. We had to keep a folder each year, which had spaces for writing the titles and authors of the books we read right on the folder itself. For tenth grade, I barely covered one side. Something happened over the summer before eleventh grade, and I made many a trip on my bicycle, riding nearly twenty miles round trip, to the nearest bookstore, where I bought and read nearly everything Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Faulkner ever wrote. I read Bradbury and Asimov as well. And, of course, Tolkien.

    I got into the Greeks in a big way, with Sophocles, Aristophanes, and nearly all the others. I have a lovely hardback book with two of Aristophanes' plays, The Birds and The Frogs.

    Brek-ek-x, brek-ek-x, co-ax, co-ax!

    Another big category for me was the political and apocalyptic fiction of the late 1960s, such as Seven Days in May or On the Beach. My friends and I who had read Alas, Babylon got a big charge out of the page where Jacksonville, Florida, gets blown off the map, with the immortal words, "We just lost Jacksonville." That was where we lived. With typical warped teenage black humor, we found that hilariously funny. Ah, well - it was How We Learned to Stop Worrying, and Love the Bomb . . .

    My mother had introduced me to mystery stories, putting me onto Agatha Christie and Mary Roberts Rinehart. I've even become a bit of a Sherlockian, though other matters keep me from practicing the skills of the craft as much as I would like. I have a two-volume, slipcased, dust-jacket-protected copy of Baring-Gould's Annotated Sherlock Holmes which I bought at a science-fiction convention I helped put on. I had another fandom going, and had a table in the dealer's room, selling zines, my own and others on consignment. One of the best used bookstore operators had his table across from mine. He put up the Baring-Gould Holmes on his table, and I asked him how much. $75, he replied. "Mine," I said, and he set it aside for me.

    While e-books can be practical in many ways, I do not think they will ever replace the physical book for the feel, the interaction with the actual page, and the memories that books can hold.

  2. This was so wonderful! It brought back memories of some of my childhood favorites. I lost my old "Ivanhoe" years ago, but I bought it in paperback last year and re-read it on vacation. One of my first books from my Dad was a nice edition of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". Dad bought it at a used book stand in Townsend. It was the type of open book stand along the side of the road, like a farm stand. If the guy wasn't there you left a dollar in a can! It was demolished about five years ago, and now the forest has reclaimed the spot. Whenever I drive down Rt. 13 in Townsend I think of my Dad, that book and that little book seller.

  3. Karen,
    Homer, Thucydides and Herodotus were the Greeks that hooked me. Which fandom were you involved in?
    I was active in the Darkover fandom, writing atories and articles for fanzines from Lynne Holdom and Roberta Rogow.

    I wonder how many geneabloggers are sf and fantasy fans as well!

  4. Heather,
    I realized after the move that "Ivanhoe" hadn't
    made the trip with me, and neither had "The Black Arrow!". But the pb edition of Howard Pyle's
    "Tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table" did. His books were among those I used to borrow at the Codman Square Library in

  5. I might also have to ask how many sf and fantasy writers are into genealogists. Just discovered that Hugo award winning author C.J. Cherryh has a
    page on her web blog devoted to genealogy. You can see it here at:

  6. Bill, I organized Hawaii Five-0 Fandom. After "Star Trek V," that textbook on how to make a bad movie, came out, I figured it was time to take my endeavors elsewhere! (smile) There was a rather large untapped reservoir of Five-0 fans. I published (and wrote for) five issues of a Five-0 Fanzine, and I ended up writing a book about the show, Booking Hawaii Five-O: An Episode Guide and Critical History of the 1968-1980 Television Detective Series. It was published in 1997 by McFarland, and has been in print ever since -- ten years in hardback, and now out in paperback. That was my first published book, and it was exciting!

    Then I found genealogy, and the rest is history. Er . . . no, it's genealogy. Er, well . . . Anyway, my second book is Non-Federal Censuses of Florida, 1784-1945: A Guide to Sources. I am now working on my project on St. Augustine, from which I hope to have another book published, in time for the 450th Anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, which will be in 2015.

  7. Old books I bought at thrift shops when I was in the 4th grade: Edith Hamilton's Mythology, same with the one pictured here, and Emily Cheney Neville's "It's Like This, Cat". This is a beautiful blog, btw~