Readers say their old books are more than just things: they’re physical reminders of love.
Your old torn books remind you of parents, grandparents, childhood, graduate school, traditions, trips or unforgettable moments. Your worn-out books are more than just things: they’re physical reminders of love.
In response to a column I wrote two months ago about keeping worn out books, readers sent in dozens of stories and photos — more than I have room to post here. Here is a sample, and a deep thank you to everyone who has written.
Chuck Haga of Grand Forks, North Dakota (and a beloved former columnist for the Star Tribune) submitted a photo of “Common Plants of Itasca State Park” published by the Peel Museum. “The back cover is torn and there are stains all over–sweat, coffee, rainwater, berry pie, bug spray–but she made 40 or more trips to the park with me,” he wrote.
Caroline Light Bell, Minneapolis: “I have thrown away many of my own paperbacks and paperbacks and donated them to small libraries. But my Complete Poems, Torn 1913-1962, are a part of my life that I deeply value. I once traded the old with new ones, in an attempt to decorate my library. But As it turns out, I couldn’t bear to strip myself of this old book.”
Karen Kelly, Edina, Minnesota: “My copy of D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love lost its cover due to a beating I received late one night in 1980. My senior year at Vanderbilt, I tried writing a paper at 2 a.m. that was (duh) 8 a.m. My roommates were in the same boat. In a cruel, stress-relieving moment of melodrama, I laughed at her as I stood up and began banging my book against the corner of a brick wall. I saved this book not because I intended to read it again, but because it was a cherished keepsake of a dear friend and dear time.”
Rebecca Lauder, Minneapolis: “My mother gave my Aunt Berta a copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula for Christmas in 1933. Everyone read this book. The red cover was torn and the pages were brittle. Many had dog ears from using them to locate readers. Their spines were lost and some pictures separated from cover.
“My mom got the book when Bertha died, and I first read it when I was 12. Drops? Did Bertha spill coffee? The splashes just added to the book’s puzzle.”
Molly Koivumaki, Chaska, Minnesota: “The childhood book I can’t let go of is The Night Before Christmas, which I received at Christmas 1964 when I was five.
On the inside cover of the book, my mother wrote my name, Molly Ann Bird, and placed my name and the names of my siblings on the illustrations of four mice and three gifts.
1964 was a difficult year for our family. My mother was in the hospital almost all summer. At one point, the doctor asked my father to bring the children to the hospital so she could say goodbye – but she absolutely refused to say goodbye. She lived another 50 years. She died in 2014. It’s a great gift to see her beautiful handwriting, truly a family treasure.”
Paula Bowdoin, Minneapolis: “My sister who passed away at the age of 54 in 2004, shared books for decades. These books are full of underlines, comments and questions. When I get these books now, it’s like getting my sister back.”
Richard Terrell, New Hope, Minnesota: “My copy of ‘Walden’ with all my notes in it is now a bundle of mostly loose pages. I bought a new copy thinking I was going to move the notes from the old one. But I didn’t. Right next to them on the shelf I see that the rubber band held together has broken” A Sand County Almanac”.
Dinesh Shinui, Minneapolis: “I’ve had my copy of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ for probably 30 years. Every time I re-read it, I have to score some pages or cover, but I’ll never buy a newer one. Having a copy from my childhood reminds me of the massive mental shock it had in my childhood. inside me when I was a teenager, and that it was such a lifelong influence on me.”
Ivy Wright, Duluth, Minnesota: “My copy of ‘101 Famous Poems’ copyright 1916. It belongs to my grandmother, who would have turned 25 that year. I kept it for the fact that she owned it, I read it ripped apart, and she was the most important person of my childhood.”
Janet Fee, Apple Valley, Minnesota: “At age 13 in 1974 I got my first summer job. With my first salary, I bought my first book. I was always a reader but until then, all my books were through the library. The book is The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodews. As an adult, I had Sometime more than 4,000 books but this book I will never give up.”
Thomas R Smith, River Falls, Wisconsin: “My most precious book is Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, which took an honors degree in my last year of high school. But that’s not why I cherish it. While I was ready to leave home for college, he is the first in my family of class Working to do this, my father, in fondness and no doubt also in some grief, printed my name and my town on its cover in his hand full of mine. In the process my father wrote his memory in this volume.”
Richard Terrell’s version of “Walden” is falling apart, but he won’t replace it.