Monday, August 22, 2005

History Lesson

For the past five years, we housed a library in our front room. Upon the death of my husband's brother, Paul, his books needed a home. My husband thought we would have some use for Paul's books and brought them to our house and subsequently, filled every available wall space in our living room with books.

I love books. I love history books. But I love the human part of history, the everyday life, the simple and mundane. Paul's books are political and historical and relate to war and upheaval and the ugly side of history. Yes yes, World War II and the psyche of Hitler is important. But not to me. I don't care about Stalin or the making of the atomic bomb. I don't want to read about living in a prisoner of war camp during the Vietnam war. I could care less about the PT boats that shot at the Japanese. And so, apparently, could everyone else in my family.

After five years of seeing these books crowd my living room, fill with dust, lay fallow, be ignored and never getting read, my husband as agreed to give them away. He has agreed that they are doing no one any good by rotting in our living room. Paul would have wanted them read, and enjoyed by someone. These books are great reference materials for someone doing research about war and politics.

For the past three weeks, we have been cataloging the books with Author, Title, Dewey Decimal code and ISBN. We have filled thirteen boxes with approximately 600 books. I would guess we are about forty percent done. We are hoping a college might find some use for them.

While I have been gleeful at every book that goes into a box, it's been difficult for my husband. These books represent his brother's legacy. Paul never finished his doctoral dissertation, but he loved history and political science enough to create his library.

So as I type the names of books into an Excel spreadsheet, I have been thinking how narrow my knowledge of history has been. I really have no interest in the political side of a country. I usually skim passages in a novel that describe bills in The House of Lords or discussions in The House of Commons. I'm not about to read all those books (now) neatly packed away in boxes, but maybe I will pay closer attention to some of the poliitcal details within a novel.


Blogger Melissa Marsh said...

OOOOHHHH! HISTORY BOOKS!! (Pardon me while I wipe off drool). Now see, I LOVE to read about Nazi Germany and WWII and all that stuff. My friend's dad is giving me his book collection - and since he lives in Colorado, he's mailing them to me over the course of a few years. :) It's like Christmas every few months!
Our basement is our library - we have soooo many books and we're only going to get more. When we eventually move in a few years, we're going to have to find a house with a big room to use as our library.
Hope you find a great home for those dusty treasures. :)

8:10 AM  
Blogger Rene said...

Great post, Olivia. When I was in college, I was more interested in the economic and political portions of history. Now that I'm older, I'm interested in the social side.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Lucky Charmz said...

I hope you can find a great place for your books, letting go can be really hard sometimes especially when you are emotionally attached to the reason you still have the books but not necessarily the books themselves. I recently was in a similar situation where I was cleaning out music and scores and books from my grandfather's home, it was deeply personal. We had already given maybe 50 boxes to our alma mater music school, and this was still more than I would ever use. I ended up giving some of it away on, and the people that have come to pick up the small bags I have separated have been truly appreciative and made it easy to let go. Good luck!

9:00 AM  
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