Unless you are at least as old as I am, chances are good that you are not familiar with the wit and wisdom of Sam Levenson. More's the pity. One of my prized possessions is his book, Everything But Money, in which he recalls with endearing humor and philosophy his upbringing by poor Jewish immigrants in the tenements of New York in the early 1900's:
"In those days people did not live as long as they do today, but things lived longer. In our house old things were not discarded but retired to a drawer in the kitchen which we called 'Mama's shame-to-throw-out drawer' . . . appropriately lined with old newspaper of which there was always a great abundance, since news, too, did not have to be new to be good. Mama saw no reason for buying new news when she had not yet used up the old." p. 26
This approach to print material can, of course, also be applied to books. Some of the most successful bookstores I have visited are purveyors of previously loved volumes. According to the handwriting on the inside cover, my copy of the Levenson book was given as a Christmas gift in 1966 from "Arlean" to "Brie." Thanks to my friend Gabe at Bay Leaf Books in Newaygo, it found its way to me. Since Levenson's books are now all out of print, finding used or library copies is the only way to read them.
Long lines of shoppers passed by rows of tables topped with boxes full of library books. Underneath the tables were more boxes of books, yet it was apparent that the supply was rapidly dwindling. I heard someone say that the children's books were almost gone. With a sense of urgency, I began thumbing through boxes in the "general fiction" area. Other than genre, there was no real organization to the boxes, so I looked for familiar author names. Luckily, it didn't take me long to fill a bag.
|All these books for 6 bucks? Even the cat is surprised.|
|From the Little Free Library Facebook page|
In the meantime, it is good to know that the love of books is strong enough to cancel one whole day of a library bulk book sale. Yes, people are still reading paper books just like they did when Sam Levenson was growing up.
"Plants could not flourish in our flat, but books did. They grew and multiplied in the dark. They were displayed, dusted, protected, and referred to with reverence. I respected them long before I could read them. In this sense, again, I was a privileged child. I was heir to an ancient tradition of love of learning." p.56
What a great way to grow up. What a great way to learn. What a great way to live.