About books

Letting them go and picking them up

Editor’s note: Anthony will return next week. Until then, here’s a column from April 2013.

For some months I’ve been what museums call de-acquisitioning generally, and particularly books. Then last week while my car was being smog-tested I wandered into ARC during a book sale, and my resolve dissolved. I at least thought up good reasons for each book it turned out I had to have.

The first was Sex, Death, and Fly-Fishing by John Gierach. Although I’m interested in sex and death, it was fly-fishing that caught my eye because a friend of mine in Minnesota is a fly fisherman and I thought I’d send it to him. Gifts don’t count against de-acquisitioning.

Then I saw West Coast Seafood: The Complete Cookbook by Jay Harlow. I got this one because I’ve been allergic to fish all my life, except I’m apparently not allergic anymore. A few months ago friends took me to eat sushi, and since at the time I thought a life-threatening meal a sensible thing to have, I went. It was delicious and not a bit fatal. I look forward to eating lots of fish, and a seafood cookbook seemed a prudent investment. That’s what I told myself.

I often see several young men around the estate in the course of a day, and I picked up two titles that I planned to leave in plain view. Although I haven’t read either book, I’ve read others by those authors and feel confident that a young man can find something of value or use in both The Choice by Og Mandino and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie.

While subject matter is usually what attracts me, there are a handful of writers whose work I read no matter what they’re writing about. Some actors are always worth watching, and some writers are always worth reading. Although Family by Ian Frazier is about his family, in whom I have no interest whatsoever, I’ve read enough of his work, including the terrific Great Plains, that I fully expect it to at least entertain, probably interest, and perhaps engross me. This is a clear violation of the de-acquisitioning mandate, so I’ll give away another book to take up the slack.

Pilgrims by Garrison Keillor is entirely irresistible because I haven’t read it, and I read whatever Garrison Keillor writes. That’s the way it is.

A few years ago I professed to have no guilty pleasures, and I didn’t. Now I have the novels of John Sandford, who writes crime fiction, including Night Prey, which made me buy it. Overall, I don’t think that crime fiction is likely to help me achieve enlightenment or peace on Earth, and so I suppose I should avoid it, but I’ve read a lot of crime fiction, and Sandford is a master. As usual, peace will have to wait.