Saturday, February 2, 2019

Books in the mountains

This past week the weather has been so very cold that it has dominated the news.  It was colder in the state of Wisconsin than in Antarctica.  The wind chill factor in Chicago, Illinois, plunged temperatures down to -54 F (-47.7 C.)  Below are some photos of frozen Lake Michigan in Chicago, courtesy The Evening Express.

In other news, the US Government was reopened temporarily for 3 weeks with funding through  February 15, 2019.  Another news item which would have been known, if it had happened to the royal family in the UK, was hardly mentioned because it concerned France: Henri d'Orleans, Count of Paris and pretender to the defunct French throne, died on Monday 21 January, 2019; he was 85 years old.  The royalty was abolished during the French Revolution of 1789.  French King Louis XVI went to the guillotine on the same day but 226 years earlier - 21 January 1793.  Henri d'Orleans' funerals will take place at the Royal Chapel Saint-Louis of Dreux on February 2, 2019.  He was a direct descendant of the Duke of Orleans, brother of Louis XIV (after whom New Orleans, Louisiana, is named.)  Henri d'Orleans's son, Prince Jean de France, inherits the title.  However another pretender to the French throne is the descendant from the royal house of Bourbon, Louis Alphonse de Bourbon.  A third pretender is Jean-Christophe Napoleon, or Prince Napoleon, descendant of the Bonaparte family.  But not to worry, I don't think the French people will vote to recognize a royal throne in France and nominate one of these three men ...

Reading about the government shutdown and Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, I realized that she is my date of birth sister.  Nancy Pelosi was born on the same day, same month and year as me - 26 March 1940.  I like to have strong birthday sisters.  I checked to see if any other strong women were born within a couple of days of March 26 and found Gloria Steinem, the feminist and journalist and Aretha Franklin, the singer and civil rights activist were both born on March 25 (1934 and 1942.)  Lady Gaga, also a singer and songwriter, was born on March 28 (1986.)  Another birthday, sad this one, is of my late husband as he was born on February 2nd.  He was proud to have been born on the popular holiday Groundhog Day.  On February 2nd, when the groundhog comes out of his den, if he sees his shadow, it is believed six more weeks of winter will follow.  Below is a groundhog.

 But my post is about books.  I have been an avid reader since I was a wee-child.  In France, in primary school through high school, kids were rated monthly according to grades: if there were 28 kids in a class they were rated 1st of the class to the last one (am not sure if it is still the same.)  My mother would give me two new books if I was the first of the class, one book if I was second and none after that.  So I tried very hard to be first and was most of the time.  I accumulated many books, mostly from the green book series "La Bibliotheque Verte," red and gold series "La Bibliotheque Rouge et Or" and pink series "La Bibliotheque Rose" created in 1856.  As a child my favorite stories had been written by the Countess of Segur, born Sofiya Feodorovna Rostopchina in St. Petersburg, Russia (1799-1874.)  I think I still have some of these books.  I just checked and some have become "rare" I guess.  The green book Melle de la Seigliere below is worth more than 20 euros, and my Little Lord Fauntleroy in French is worth more than 35 euros in France, both from the 1940s.  I guess I'll have to sell them back in France rather than donating them to Goodwill here.  Below are samples of my old books plus an illustration from Countess of Segur's "Les Petites Filles Modeles" (Good Little Girls) written in 1858.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

When I arrived at the port of New York in 1961, I remember the US Customs officer asked me if I was a student because one of my steamer trunks was full of books.  I had taken many with me but not all of my French books.  When I married my husband he brought his book collection and I brought mine - we had many books but hardly any furniture.  Through the years we collected another large amount.  We placed them in bookshelves in each room of our house.  He loved to go to second-hand bookstores.  I don't think a week went by that we did not buy at least one book for us or later on for our daughters.  Once, in New York City - I think it was back in 2007, we walked by the St. Agnes Public Library on Amsterdam Avenue at West 81st Street (an old library branch opened in 1906.)  They had a sign saying there was to be a library sale the next couple of days because the library was going to be renovated.  The next two days we were supposed to go out of New York to visit West Point, but instead my husband insisted that we stay for the sale ... we did buy quite a few books then had to get a large cardboard box and mail it to our house.  Below pictures of the renovated St. Agnes Public Library in New York City, courtesy NYPL.

Toward the end of my husband's illness he would constantly count his books and place the numbers on little yellow stickers.  He also would hide documents, money and what not in the books, so now I have to carefully go through them.  I bought many second-hand books at estate sales, library sales and through Amazon and ABE Books.  My husband would love to walk down to the mailbox and if there was a book there he would take it, look at it, place it somewhere without telling me then quickly forget.  I still find many old books that I ordered and never had a chance to see or read, such as those below I found last week.  I just realized that I had bought the second-hand book below "Dinner at Belmont" by Alfred Leland Crabb (published in 1942) some years ago before I knew I would move to Nashville, just a few blocks from Belmont Avenue.  It deals with Nashville's most eventful years, 1858 to 1865.  I am pleased that I re-discovered it.  There was also the book "Elizabeth and her German Garden" by Elizabeth von Arnim, published in 1901, that I could not find on the shelves as well as the writings of Thomas Paine, book published in 1945.  They were behind his western books.

I also found more lost books that he had placed in weird places.  I show them under my lamp in the heading photo.  Below is a close up so you can read the titles.  I have never read "For Whom the Bells Tolls" by Ernest Hemingway but am not sure if I want to read this paperback published in 1949, with yellow pages and tiny print.  I think I had bought it at an estate sale about 5 years ago.

If we drove through a small town and went by a second-hand bookstore, we had to stop.  I had found a route through the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia to avoid going through Chattanooga.  I mentioned it on my post On the Road Again in Tennessee and Georgia in 2011. The little town of Trenton, GA, located at the border of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee, had one second-hand bookstore.  We stopped several times but their inventory was not extensive.  A while back I remembered that bookstore and called them to see if they would be interested in purchasing some of our books.  It turned out that the store had been sold and the new owner was eager to buy books to replenish his stock.  Last September I brought 100 western paperbacks to Trenton from my husband's collection.  I brought more books in November, December, and last week in January.  Below is a picture of the bookstore with a view of the town around it (Trenton population is approx. 2,500.)  Trenton is in a valley in the Appalachian foothills surrounded by mountains: Lawson Mountain, Fox Mountain, Windy Mountain, Little Cedar Mountain, Raccoon Mountain, Lookout Mountain and more.

I watch the weather when I drive to Trenton on my way to Nashville because the road, SR136, meanders through hills and hollows.  It has many curvy turns and steep hills through the canyons and mountains.  It is scenic.  You can see the beautiful landscape while on top of one of the mountains but can't stop (or might fall down the cliffs!)  My husband used to take pictures from the car while I drove.  Bottom right picture is Trenton in the valley, taken from Sand Mountain.

When I am back in Georgia I go through all my late husband's books to select those to bring to Trenton (next will be my books, later on ...)  They are scattered throughout the bookshelves.  I had already donated about 1,000 books to the Cobb County Library in GA and the Goodwill there.  I am not sure how many books there are left, maybe 8000 or more.  The shelves are not in order.  Also the shelves in Nashville need to be re-arranged.  Some of the books were placed in moving boxes and taken to Nashville before I had a chance to look at them first.  My eldest daughter tried to help by placing many on the shelves, but one of top of the other, two rows deep, and it is difficult to see their titles - some are my husband's books, some are mine and some I did not want any longer.  I took some western paperbacks back from Nashville to Georgia already to bring back to Trenton (those books are traveling...)  Below I show three bookshelves in GA and one in Nashville to illustrate what I mean (there are many more.)  The top left bookshelf below has more western paperbacks on the top, and two rows behind it.  The top right bookshelf is the way they are stacked here in Nashville, two rows deep, one on top of the other.

Just before I left Georgia early last week, I found a box in the garage and, surprise ... more western books.  They are part of my late husband's Louis L'Amour collection, at least 90 books there.  That will be for my next trip to Trenton up in the North Georgia Mountains.  I have plenty of work to do with all his books and mine, and for a long time to come.  But I also found one of my favorite books written by Chinese philosopher Lin Yutang (1895-1976) "The Importance of Living."

There are many quotable passages in this book.  The jacket says: "Playfully serious, cynically kind, shot with comedy, and backed by science and the thoughts of the sages, the medicine Lin Yutang prescribes is the Chinese philosophy of life: Revere inaction as much as action, invoke humor to keep life sane, let others struggle for power while you bask in the joy of existence."  Here is one quotation from the book:

"Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials."

I know my late husband would be pleased to have his books brought to the North Georgia Mountains where interested readers would have access to them, but I also know that he would approve of my taking a needed rest from all the book sorting.  Here is another quote from Lin Yutang:

"If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live."

I certainly can stop as of an afternoon, relax and have a cup of tea while perusing an old book, of course, before deciding what to do with it, and not feel guilty.  Below is "Quiet Pleasures" painted by Gustave Max Stevens, Belgian 1871-1946.






39 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

A love of reading, and of books is probably the best present my parents ever gave me.
I too love second hand bookshops and rarely walk past them. If I go in, there are always books which MUST come home with me.
Enjoy your time with the books - never wasted, and certainly not useless.

Thérèse said...

Le Bonheur des livres écrits et à écrire, lus et à lire.

DJan said...

So many books! I have gradually gotten rid of many of the books I accumulated over the years, and now I have only two books shelves full. I really like keeping them on my Kindle these days. I just tried to find the Lin Yutang book at the library website, but it didn't come up. I may try to get a copy on my Kindle instead. :-)

Sam I Am...... said...

We may not be birth sisters but we are definitely book sisters. I have 1000's but have slowly been going through them but it pains me to think that I will not live long enough to read them all. So I must start discriminating as to what I want to spend my time reading. I've stopped buying except for once in awhile a book for a series. I've noticed my tastes have changed too. But why do I clean to my college textbooks? I think I am clinging to the learning as I love to learn still.
I have been looking into selling some. If you Google best places to sell books you can actually enter the ISBN and find out how much...it's usually not much but they pay for the shipping so they're out the door! Even the Goodwill is hours away from me.
I loved your history of the French Royalty. I have discovered a love of history too that I forgot I had! When I had my career I read technical manuals so it really wasn't until I retired that I got to chose my reading although truth be told, I loved reading the technical stuff too. I have way too many loves in this lifetime to quench them all. Don't even get me started on library sales....oh my!
I have written way too much here but I was so thrilled to find someone who loves books as much as I do! Thank you so much for a beautiful post and for sharing it all with us.

Molly Bon said...


I thought my collection of books was out of control until I read this. Turns out I'm an amateur compared to you! But I love nothing better than browsing in old book stores and, inevitably, find something that begs to come home with me even though I too am trying to downsize. I had not heard before of Lin Yutang but already I like his thinking! So often we stress about getting things done. Refreshing to be reminded that there's benefit to just sitting, thinking and doing 'nothing!'

Jeanie said...

This is such a lovely post. I'm sure checking through all the books is a cross between melancholy and frustrating, along with important. Paging through hundreds of books -- especially those you'd probably not rather page through -- is so time consuming and I suppose a bit numbing, yet in some ways a very tactile connection. I really have to go through many of mine. I do it periodically. But I dread the job and hate the idea of letting go!

Mae Travels said...

books! They are so compelling, and so hard to keep in check. Lately I've been mostly buying kindle books, which don't require space. I'm impressed that you have a way to sell your books, as well as the determination to organize them.

best.... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Jono said...

You do cover a lot of ground! I share a birthday with Mick Jagger, but he is a few years older than me. Glad you git to see the Midwest cold snap. The books! Oh, my!

Nance said...

I am slowly but surely releasing some of my books. I, too, learned to read at a very, very young age; books became my escape and my fortress, and later, my career.

My books go to a library sale twice a year and sometimes I send them out Into The Wild by leaving them in waiting rooms and in Free Little Libraries in communities.

As I age, I appreciate and understand more the wisdom of the Far Eastern philosophies. Perhaps it's because I've finally slowed down enough to think about them.

Vicki Lane said...

What a massive undertaking! Not easy, sometimes sad, but how wonderful that there is the occasional pleasant surprise!

A Heron's View said...

I dread visiting homes where there are no books to be seen. My lady and I are always buying books and sometimes acquiring others from the giveaway section in our local library.
I smiled at the thought of your late husband, that he still keeping you on your toes as you discover the hidden books.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Oh my dear, we love to read in this house too, and I grew up with book lovers... but yours must be the most extensive private collection I’ve ever seen. You do have a job ahead of you, especially given your dear husband’s habit of hiding things in them during his illness. But it is a pleasant task, looking at old books with the memories they bring and finding ones you’ve forgotten...like finding buried treasure! ...You mentioned “Little Lord Fauntleroy” and that brought sweet memories to me! a Childhood favorite I’d forgotten about (never so lucky to have a first edition though!)

Al said...

I also love books (and music, my two go-to ways to relax when I'm home). But I don't have anything like your late husband's collection. Since I live 7,100 feet above sea level, are all my books in the mountains?

David said...

Hi Vagabonde, Love those weather related photos! Chicago was our home for 29 years and we definitely don't miss Chicago winters! Living is easy here in East Tennessee. Your comments about your birthday convinced me to look and see who was born on my birthday. With one exception, I wasn't too impressed. I matched up with Ernest Hemingway, Robin Williams, Don Knotts and Cat Stevens. Oh well...

I thought that we had a lot of books...only a little more than a thousand. You have about 8,000 remaining...wow! I also have all of the Louis L'Amour books...plus all of the Tarzan books. (Haven't read them in years!)

My mother did the same thing with money that your husband did. She had money tucked in a bunch of her books as well as some videos that we'd purchased her. One library made out when they discovered money in video tape boxes. They called us and told us (honest!) and we told them to take it as a donation from my mother. We carefully checked all of her books...

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Patricia said...

Thank you for visiting my blog, and I have happily enjoyed discovering yours too. The pictures on the cold are quite amazing, so different from tropical Queensland over here. Thank you for sharing the royal news from France - so interesting to know there are in fact three lines of royalty as Pretenders to the throne. I wonder what the future holds for them all. Your books are astonishing! What a wonderful collection you have both made. My father was a keen reader and writer, and had a long period of dementia before passing. When we went through all the books we found a considerable amount of cash, randomly tucked away in many places, along with other notes and documents. Strange the way the mind works.

Shortbread and Ginger said...

What a lot of books! I get most of my books secondhand too. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Marja said...

Wow these pictures from the cold snap are unbelievable and I don't know how someone can cope with 47.7 C minus I have been ice skating in -20 C and remember how I had ice pins in my hair. To think these extremes will become more and more common because of global warming. Quite scary
I love books as well and also go nearly every year to the library book sale. 8000 books is incredible I throw some out regularly as I don't have enough storage. I love the philosophy of Lin Yutang Good to live by and that painting is gorgeous.

a rich tapestry said...

The painting of the woman reading the book is interesting. She's really engrossed in what she's reading. I have many books that I like to reread. Libraries are a great resource for information and new publications. That New York library has windows like our local library in the park. I would find it difficult to give away books and other collections such as postcards, but sometimes one has to do it. Hopefully others will benefit from what we can donate to specialist book stores. I hope you're able to rest in between sorting out tasks. The quotes by the philosopher Lin Yutang are good ones! All the best dear blog friend.

ELFI said...

merci de la visite chez moi... je reviens bientôt pour lire les derniers billets! bises

Carola Bartz said...

It looks like you have a big job to do - so many books! When I read how you're finding books that your late husband hid somewhere the thought entered my mind that he has left some gifts for you to find for the time after he's gone.
Over the years I have gone through my books and brought many to thrift stores when I was certain I would never read it again or didn't enjoy the book that much. It's freeing in a way.

Rita said...

Used to read more than I am able to now because eyes not what they used to be. Grew up loving books. You remind me so much of my dear friend, Ruby, who died several years ago. She couldn't pass a bookshop and had bookcases everywhere and books stacked all over her home. She introduced me to murder mysteries, which are still one of my favorite things to watch on TV--especially British/European. She read all kinds of genres, as do/did I.

I don't know how you came across my blog but I am glad you did and hope to see you again. I wish you had the "follow by email" option. Oh, and my birthday is March 28th...so close. ;)

jono said...

Somehow, I don't think the French people will reappoint a monarchy. A dear friend and I were reminiscing about our fathers. Hers was born on Feb. 2, 1920, and would say when asked, "Ground Hog Day '20."
Wonderful old books you have! I could spend a lot of time looking at them and reading them.
I didn't get a chance to express my condolences earlier on the death of your husband. He was a indeed a lucky man to be able to spend 51 years married to you.

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

You sure have some strong sister twins. I've never heard the term before so I might have to look to see if I have any good ones.

I love your lamp in the top photo and all the books you have to sell reminds me of having to go through and sell my husband's favorite and massive collectables. I'm nearly done but I've had to take some long breaks because it can get overwhelming which I'm betting you're finding out, too. I used to go to garages sales, Goodwill, etc., looking for collectable books to sell online. My best find was $1,000 but books in the hundreds aren't too hard to find. You probably have some.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Colette said...

I am in awe of the books, there are so many. It must be hard not to want to read them all again.

Dewena said...

It was fascinating reading about the different pretenders to the throne of France! I have to admit loving stories of all the Royal Families.

You have accomplished so much so far in going through your husband's books. It seems as if you are facing that job dauntlessly, maybe because you are such a book lover yourself and want to see that these can go on to homes where they will be enjoyed again.

I have constantly tucked thank you cards in my old books but never money for my children to find someday.

I do so love the "Quiet Pleasures" painting!

Linda Starr said...

ah books, so many have been given away in all our moves, dh many times was cussing at the weight of all the boxes, so I am glad you are donating them for others to read, I know many nowadays read on kindles, etc, but there is something so much better with holding the words of others and reading them in you own comfortable place. so very sorry you lost your husband recently; I admire your fortitude and ability to move forward in life and location so soon.

Tanza Erlambang said...

thank you for sharing your useful post.
have a great day

claude said...

Coucou Vagabonde.
Merci pour ton long commentaire, Je vais t'envoyer un mail.
Le "trône" de France est actuellement occupé par un petit Roi imbu de sa personne. Un Empereur même ! Moi, je l'appelle Pharaon 1er depuis que je l'ai vu marcher pour son investiture vers la Pyramide du Louve, et du coup j'ai changé de chaîne.
Nous avons vu à la télé le froid polaire qui s'est abattu sur les UE. Brrr !
Je ne croule pas sous les livres car je suis une très mauvaise lectrice . Je ne lis que ce qui me plait donc ça restreint les sujets. Ici il existe des boîtes à livres à disposition des gens dans les villes. On y dépose les livres qu'on a lus et on peut en reprendre d'autres.
Bon courage pour les aller/retour !

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Vagabonde - good to see you again ... and I'm sorry for your loss - yet it's such a terrible disease, it must be a relief. At least you're finding your books and then of course there'll be lots of interesting snippets hidden in the books - I hope all things come to light.

You have such a wealth of knowledge ... which you put to good use. The books are amazing ... I gave away a History of Time when I left Canada - I must get myself another copy ... while Louis L'Amour - I wouldn't read the cowboy ones - but someone recommended his 'The Walking Drum' that I found fascinating ... you probably know it - the historical novel set in 12thC middle ages in Europe and the Middle East.

All the best - as you adapt and settle to the life ahead ... cheers Hilary

Roderick Robinson said...

The warm glow of a Tiffany lamp. Positioned just so, for aesthetic rather than utilitarian reasons. And as a cheering counterbalance to what's going on outside the house walls.

When you say "hardly mentioned" in your second para I take it you mean "in the USA". The death and its implications were reported in The Guardian, the paper I take here in the UK. All the more surprising since The Guardian is left-of-centre, anti-Brexit. I try and imagine what it's like to be one of these ossified royals: silence you could cut with a knife, ill-lit rooms and a lot of leather-bound books that haven't been opened for a century. Prince Jean de France's baldness betokens the enfeeblement of the royal line, the thinning of the blood, the lessening resistance to futility. As you may have guessed I share The Guardian's politics.

I too have lots of books but their diversity is shameful and does me no credit. Gore Vidal's essays rub shoulders with an F1 driver's autobiography. I prefer paperbacks to hardbacks and used this conceit to animate one of the characters in my novel Out Of Arizona:

Shelves were more conspicuous than books – the latter mostly second-hand with ragged spines that made the titles hard to read. Mixed in with disintegrating French paperbacks, the sort with beige bindings and a minimum of information on the cover. Books that needed no publicity, books for readers who knew everything about the contents. Here and there hardbacks, the spines faded or darkened by age, lacking dust jackets.

Above the monitor of my computer are two shelves of French paperbacks which have supported my French lessons going back several decades. If some of the titles are more pretentious it's because the choices were made by my teachers - four of them, all women; another factoid I've tried to explore for its fictional potential.

Here are two or three I remember without reference to their spines (ie, for good reasons); Gros Calin (Gary), La Modification (Butor), Le Notaire du Havre (Duhamel), No et Moi (de Vigan)

I tried to read the titles of the books under theTiffany lamp before discovering, later on, that you'd made it easier to do this. For Whom... creates an echo. A couple of years ago I decided to re-read Hemingway to see whether his terse style had held up. As usual I bought from ABE Books and the cover of my A Farewell to Arms was just as lurid as your husband's For Whom... As to style I remain agnostic, but the wretched cover may have played its part in preventing me from being decisive.

Your blog is a fine discovery and I'll be back if you'll have me.

Felicitations from your 16,918th GB reader.

Divers and Sundry said...

I hadn't realized there were surviving royal descendants to the French throne. Fascinating!

Anniversaries of loved ones who have died are bittersweet, I think, a mix of fond memories and sadness. I'm sorry for your loss.

I've also been a reader since childhood :) Your books have delightful illustrations. I have read a few -but only a few- of the books in your photos, but May Sarton's Journal of a Solitude I remember well. We also used to stop at every book shop we saw and fill bookcases and floors with our finds :) We have been paring down and passing ours on as we can so as to get a reasonable number on shelves. And, if we're honest, to make it easier on the kids when that time comes. Thinking ahead. The "Quiet Pleasures" painting is the perfect picture of that necessary respite, isn't it :)

Jenny Woolf said...

I try to go through my books but do hate getting rid of those i enjoyed in the past ... they seem like friends. I' m getting better at letting go of the ones i have always intended to read... a bit like the clothes i never wear. I am sure your husband would have wanted to see his collection being welcomed.

Regine Karpel said...

Love.

Ginnie said...

I am thrilled to see you back at your blog, Vagabonde...so thank you for first stopping by to comment on mine. It will be good to keep in touch because I think about you from time to time. Of COURSE you would have all these books, but I declare. You take First Place in "hoarding" them. :)

Magic Love Crow said...

Wow, that is a lot of books! I can't even imagine! Keep going, you're doing great! Thanks for another amazing post! Thanks for coming by my blog too! Big Hugs!

BeachGypsy said...

So glad to see you had stopped by and thank you for your kind words during this sad time. I am also so very very sorry for the loss of your husband. May our memories give us comfort.......

Denise inVA said...

Wonderful post and so much to take in. I love to read. I am not sure where it came from as both my parents nor my sister were great readers, and yet I used to ride up to the library every week on my bicycle and fill my basket full :)

Gattina said...

The pictures of frozen cars etc are amazing ! Of course living here in Belgium I always read what's going on with the Royals. Bookwise our house is full, so full that I don't buy any book anymore, if I read it's with my tablet ! In 50 years of marriage and both loving to read it's not surprising that even the basement is full ! And we have them in Italian, German, French and English !

Joared said...

Fascinating! I've loved visiting used bookstores, but there are so few any more. Our city had three when we moved here -- none now. I thought I had an overflowing quantity of books, but they are few compared to what you have. I have mastered the art of leaving things undone ad spending perfectly useless afternoons to a fault since I retired.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...