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Book Experiences

The Green Dragon

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Apr 6, 2012, 7:35pm Top

Here's a thread to share a favorite "book experience" or two. Interpret that however you want!

My story, which inspired this thread, goes as follows:

I'm currently teaching in the massage therapy program at a college in Eastern North Carolina. Our school librarian has been very good about finding media requests from yours truly, but THIS time, she blew me away! I'd requested a copy of an older massage textbook written by the brothers Taylor -- the first massage textbook to be published in America, in fact. Well, not only did our librarian find a copy of the book, she found an ORIGINAL 1860 copy... SIGNED.

I was unsure as to whether the students would be as impressed as I was, but I took my class on a "field trip" to the library, telling them that there was a surprise awaiting them in there; something brand new to the library; something brand new, yet quite old. When they were all properly seated I brought out the special archive box and made my presentation -- showing them the title, reminding them of how we had learned about this book in the history portion of the course, showing them the author's signature, and then reading the dedication to them.

All of them looked impressed, but I knew I really had them when one of them tentatively asked, "So... can I touch it?"


Apr 6, 2012, 8:08pm Top

That is awesome! I'm not sure how impressed my massage class would have been (I'm certified, now). They probably would have appreciated it well enough, but given their lack of interest in history...I'm not so sure. What do you teach?

My favorite book experience that comes to mind is when my dad finally read Harry Potter. My brother and I started reading it shortly after Goblet of Fire had been published (I was 13, he was 10), and we were talking about it a lot. We get our taste in books from our dad, so when he saw that adults were reading it, he decided to gave it a try. After weeks/months of rolling his eyes at our suggestions, of course. When he finished reading book 4 (he borrowed my box-set instead of my brother's paperbacks) he came into my room and asked, "So, where's the next one?" He gave me one of the most sullen looks when I told him that it hadn't been published, yet. I was sprawled out on my bed doing my homework, so he smacked me on the backside with the book for my grin, which only made me laugh harder.

On a related note, I became a fan of Joss Whedon's Firefly in college. I spent a good chunk of my conversations with my brother insisting that he see it, and complaining that it had ended so abruptly. He got sick of listening to me, so he caved and watched it. Over Christmas break, when I visited my family, we were both complaining about it's untimely cancellation, which annoyed our father. "It's just a TV show!" He'd gifted it to me for Christmas, but he hadn't watched it, yet. Sometime in month following, he must've got his hands on a copy, or a channel was running a marathon, because he called to complain about Firefly's cancellation. XD

Apr 7, 2012, 9:55am Top

Rather like Buchleser, when I was in Cape Town (before PCs, let alone internet and the GD, I used to show the second-years around the herbarium's exceptionally well-appointed library. I always enjoyed pullong out the Clusius (1605) 'Exoticorum libri X', which includes one of the two earliest published pictures of a South African plant, among other things. And so I could show them a woodcut of a very clearly living dodo, followed a few pages later by an equally obviously dead protea.

On a related note, some years later my job included showing students the National Herbarium library, which is the best botanical library in Africa. One day a group arrived and yes, the possibility that some of them might just be muslims should have occurred to me. So I showed them the oldes printed book, a 1552 Theophrastus, and give them the spiel about the binding, which is animal parchment. 'What's parchment made of?' says one bright young lady, gently stroking the book. Without thinking, I replied 'some obscure part of a pig'. I have never seen anybody jump backwards so accurately (missing the shelving behind her) so fast!

Apr 7, 2012, 5:45pm Top

In my first year of university, I went into the downstairs of the university library, and there on the shelf, without any protection or anything, was a second-edition of Johnson's dictionary. I melted a little inside, and spent about an hour just reading through bits of it. I have a feeling it wasn't supposed to be left out like that. It wasn't as old as the books the others are talking about - this one was early 19th century, but it was definitely the oldest book I'd ever touched at that point.

Another time, a friend of mine who collects books on dance history showed us a book he'd just bought, a 18th century book of dance instructions, which he pulled out with bare hands and waved about, opened it wide, etc. I nearly took it off him and told him he couldn't have it back until he learned how to respect it! I internally cringed.

Apr 8, 2012, 9:03am Top

I have a reprint of The Canadian Home Cookbook "Compiled by Ladies of Toronto and Chief Cities and Towns in Canada, 1877, Tried! Tested! Proven!" (touchstone is wrong). It's a very interesting read and I lent it to the restaurant owner downstairs. He made C and me a lovely omelet encrusted with bread crumbs, a recipe from the book. A great payback!

Another time, many years ago, I lent a young professor the last book of The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay. He returned it the next day by marching into my office and saying, loudly, that he hadn't gotten any sleep last night and it was all my fault! So I got to wear a knowing grin while the staff outside my office bristled with curiosity.

May 7, 2012, 1:14am Top

I have finally decided that I am no longer loaning books and instead buying a copy to give to people. Every book I have ever loaned back has never come back (with one exception, but that's not counted, as the books came back in pieces in a garbage bag. The person even had the cojones to tell me that was the way I'd given them the books.)

May 7, 2012, 2:29pm Top

6: I've had that experience, too, and once even with my husband. I gave him one of my books to read while he was flying out for an interview. He came back having not read it on the plane, pulled it out of his suitcase with listerine seeping into the back cover. Naturally, I yelled at him. For those who don't travel often, books go in your CARRY ON. You do NOT store them next to your toiletries! I'd already shared it with two friends of ours and got it back in the original condition; I should be able to trust my husband without a second thought. This was a signed copy, too.

May 7, 2012, 3:59pm Top

I buy MMPs for the express purpose of having "reading copies" that I can lend out to people without worrying about them coming back. I love that my friends share a lot of my tastes, I don't love that they're not always the most careful readers (and some of them are heavy smokers, alas). In the interests of preserving friendships and conversations about books, I don't mind picking up the MMPs when they come out.

The flipside is that my hardcovers stay with me. They're MINE. My precioussess! I have invited people over to read books at my house that are not yet out in paperback, or I borrow a library copy for them to read instead, if I know of one they'll really enjoy.

Too many of my books in high school and college came back in tatters or not at all, when I was very broke and attached to my books, so I learned pretty quickly that I needed to change something. Thankfully, I'm the only hardcover lover in my group of friends, so they all prefer to borrow the paperbacks anyway! Mission accomplished!

May 7, 2012, 6:14pm Top

"Hardcover Lover" is that a song title? :D

I can't remember any of my friends or family destroying my books. When I worked in the church library, there were certain families I dreaded loaning the books to, one lady dropped one in the soup pot while she was camping, but she paid to replace it. I got over it, because the fact that people were actually reading was more important to me. The books could be replaced.

Of course that would be different if you were the one paying to replace them all, or if they were a signed copy or first edition. I don't have many of those, though.

May 8, 2012, 9:56am Top

I would love to hear the 'Hardcover Lover' song! ♫

I was reading Harry Potter and the deathly hallows when it had just come out, visiting my parents for the weekend. My mother was very, VERY eager to read it too, since I infected her with the HP-virus. I promised her I would leave the book there IF I finished it before I went home.
On sunday, right before dinner, my father was talking to me. My mother came in, saw that I was not reading, and told him to "be quiet! She has to finish that book before she goes home!" My fathers expression was priceless! :-D

May 8, 2012, 4:08pm Top

My experience (I'll think of others) is more of the first type, but what comes to mind happened last year when my wife and I were in Quechee. We love to go through all the different hutches and look for old things and unusual things. With me, of course, I always steer towards books whenever I happen to see them. This time I was searching in one of the furthest aisles in the back of that massive store, when I came across a group of books lined up between two battered bookends sitting on a piles of old newspapers. There were a number of valuable books on that shelf - the first Bobsey Twins, an early edition of Peter Rabbit, a first edition of one of G. K. Chesterton's treatises. But what made me stop dead in my tracks was a smaller hardcover in a dark and very-well preserved dustjacket, titled The Dunwich Horror by H. P. Lovecraft! First Edition - 1929! The price on it was only $75.00, but of course it is practically priceless! The seller had no idea what they were in possession of. To own such a seminal work in horror literature! But nooooo, I had to go eat dinner first. When I came back, the conclusion is obvious - the tome had disappeared out of my life as quickly as it had appeared in it! Ahem . . . anyway, profound book experience to follow later.

May 8, 2012, 6:46pm Top

I've had several "Hallelujah" moments in finding favorite books which had been lost or proven to belong to someone else.

I was crushed when I found that the volume of Mother Goose I had cherished as a little girl actually belonged to my older brother. He was ten years older, and so was never remotely interested in it until he had his own children, then, to my horror, there was the inscription to him from my grandmother in the front. But all is well, about five years ago, I found the same version in a used bookstore, so I am happy. I found a cookbook which was like the holy grail to me in one of those antique malls, way at the back of the warren, on a bottom shelf, hidden, but I managed to ferret it out.

May 9, 2012, 6:35am Top

Oh! I had a hallelujah moment like that when Sinterklaas (Santa Claus' Dutch colleague) brought me one of my favorite about-december books with stories, recipes, music, etc.. (Alas, no touchstone.) We used to have the library book at home every year, but didn't manage to buy it when it was 'thrown out'.

May 9, 2012, 7:59am Top

The first time I had a bad book experience was in high school. I lent a close friend one of my favorite books - and not only was it one of my favorite books, it was an edition that you couldn't find anymore, with cover art I loved and a "matching set" with the other books in the series. I'd read it so many times that pages were starting to fall out. So what did she do?

I honestly don't know what she did. What she told me she did was send it to "this guy she knows" who finds rare books, so he could find a new copy for me. I now think she probably ruined the book somehow and just said that to try and make me feel better about it, because she was extremely conflict-averse. I was furious anyway (who does something like that?).

I never saw that book again. It took me almost a decade to find a new copy. That made me wary of lending books from pretty much as soon as I had books I might lend out.

May 9, 2012, 8:39am Top

About 10 years ago, I was at an antique mall, and one vendor specialized in vintage children's books. There was a copy of the 1940 Newbery Award Daniel Boone by James Daugherty, which has been long out of print. It was priced at $45, and I talked myself out of buying it. It was a former library copy, and I could never get over the fact that a library would let an OP treasure like that out of their hands. It is one of the few old Newberys I haven't read, and I've regretted it ever since.

May 9, 2012, 9:34am Top

Everybody should be sure to go look at the entrants to the Edible Book Contest! Some fun Book Experiences, there!

Group: The Green Dragon

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