The Secret Lives Of Books

book.jpgThis is a little matter. Trival even. But sometimes the little pictures can yield a wide pride and good vibes can be found in the moments most miniscule. Such was the case yesterday standing before the “New Books” shelves inside the Cahuenga branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. Upon it was a copy of Ecology of Fear by Mike Davis, and it’s mine… or at least it used to be.

Before moving in with my girlfriend at the end of July, I purged my personal library. Flat out gutted it. Through a cold-hearted process of elimination, I kept some essentials, inseparables and beloveds, but relieved myself of something like 14 Trader Joe’s grocery bags and three boxes full by driving them over to the surprised and appreciative librarians there on Santa Monica Boulevard east of Vermont.

It wasn’t easy. Ushering such an exodus represented a major shift in my relationship with reading matter. Before, a book was forever. Whether it was my high school algebra text or a tattered paperback copy of “The Twilight Zone Companion,” it was my responsibility. A life-long partnership. As such, I ended up with a lot of books ó and a growing number unread. With the coming move, I suddenly started thinking not about holding onto them like they’re mine-all-mine, but instead about setting them free.

So I did.

Among the bags and boxes that I donated was that controversial 1998 Mike Davis tome exploring how L.A. is a disaster not just waiting to happen but one that has been happening for some time. For nearly six years (and three moves from Encino to Sherman Oaks to Silver Lake) it sat captive, meant to be read but perpetually put off. So when push came to shove while prepping for my next move I bit the bullet and added it to the hundreds of others destined for deliverance, figuring that if I ever want to read it, I’ll know where to find it.

Which brings me back to seeing it there on the “New Books” shelf before which I was standing yesterday while waiting for my literacy student to arrive for our next lesson. I couldn’t help but pick it up and admire it, all spiffed up in a new protective plastic jacket with a sticker on its spine cataloging it as 309.7949 D263-1, a barcode on its back, and various stampings inside identifying it as library property. On the title page is the date “AUG 03 2004” indicated when it was officially received into the library’s collection, four days after I delivered it.

Regardless of how goofy it might have looked to have me grinning at a bookcase, I didn’t stifle the smile that came with feeling something akin to a proud papa seeing one of his kids all grown up and ready to go out into the world. I also didn’t stifle the urge to check it out and bring it home ó but only for a visit. This time I’ll read it (finally) and have it back where it belongs in three more weeks, not six more years.

4 thoughts on “The Secret Lives Of Books”

  1. As a fellow booklover (yes, Sean, I often do treat books as women) Will, I really enjoyed your post. I really need to donate some unread dusty tombs as well. What a funny loop. You will enjoy Davis’ book all the more.

    Have a nice weekend,


  2. I always try to donate my books to the library as well! It really helps considering the budget shortages LA has at the moment.

  3. LA library doesn’t have a lack of money–they just don’t spend it on books. They spend it on tranferring everything to microfiche.

  4. You’re going to love it, as I did. And reading this just makes me miss Davis’ book, because I have NO idea what’s happened to it, though all my moves back and forth, across the country!

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