Finding Treasure In Inherited Books
I bet you inherited books. Maybe a Bible. Or a series of recipe books. Or maybe like me, you inherited enough books to fill a small library, too many to ever read during your busy life.
What are you to do with them all? I suggest you examine them closely before deciding to haul them to a donation center or library because inside their pages lay buried, priceless treasure.
And just like treasure, we must “dig” to collect it.
My parents didn’t own one bookshelf, but their home contained hundreds of books. I found them in drawers and on top of end tables. In found them in the living room, dining room, in the bedrooms and in closets. I found them in boxes stored in all three sheds.
Their tastes covered a lot of ground. Novels. Self-help. Celebrity autobiographies. Dozens of volumes of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. And a lot of the inspirational writings of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, including his signature book, The Power of Positive Thinking.
I regret I didn’t initially examine their books in the first few years of the project to clean out my parents’ home. I suppose I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of them, and I hastily took them to Goodwill in phases as I worked my way through the vacated rooms. And then one of my old school photographs fell from a book. I never seen it before.
I began fanning the pages of the books that remained to check for more photographs. I found another one of me, and one of my dad. How many photos did I miss? I’ll never know.
The treasure, though, isn’t in between the pages so much as in between the sentences.
Books shape us. We choose them with our interests, our longings, and our dreams in mind. I always glance at a person’s bookcase when I interview them at their office. It gives me a window into who they are, what they love and what they want.
As I read the words my parents read, I discover ideas that shaped their lives, and sometimes I learn things I didn’t know about them. In Peale’s signature book, my mother underlined passages important to her in red ink. I glimpsed what mattered to her most. She spoke through his pages.
I find in between the sentences that sought-after commodity of the grieving, connection.
A few weeks ago, I cracked open one of several books I held onto from my parents’ home. Don’t Blame the Mirror, by Virginia Graham and Jean Libman Block, was published in 1967. Not only was I curious about the beauty ideas of 51 years ago, but I wondered how this book might have influenced or affirmed my mother’s ideas about looking good. She used to tell me I was a “natural beauty,” but that she achieved beauty by knowing how to fix herself up. My mother used to spend better than an hour putting on her makeup and doing her hair.
But there was a beauty in my mother that couldn’t come from a bottle. That beauty – the loveliness of confidence – was mentioned in Chapter 11 and proved to be the foundation of Graham’s search for beauty. It allowed her to be bold in expressing her inner self, her inner beauty, and to try techniques that played up her best features.
The book was a nice trip inside my mother’s mind. She believed what the author believed. Beauty could be achieved with a few “tricks,” and asserting confidence. It was that confidence lesson Mom tried to impart to me and that I only began to achieve well into my adulthood.
What are our options for the books we inherit? Here are five possibilities:
Investigate books in terms of their value to other people. What titles or editions might be rare? Check online for the value of popular titles. What is sellable?
Give away particular titles to relatives or friends who will value them. I gave away my mother’s French cookbook to a friend who is in love with the country.
Donate books to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or perhaps a church. Believe me, people appreciate snapping up titles for practically pocket change.
Donate books in good condition to the local library. My friend, Suzanne Argo at the B.J. Chain Library in Olive Branch, Miss., says they don’t accept very old encyclopedias nor very old books. Give your librarian a call to be sure your donation will be useful.
Select a manageable number of books to keep. I’ve stored several in our attic. Digest your selection over the years. Give them away when you are finished, and keep the best ones – the ones with the “treasures” inside.
What options would you add to this list? Have your inherited books? What kind of “treasure” did you find?
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