When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.
(This was originally posted last week at The American Catholic, but I thought the bibliophiles who read Almost Chosen People might enjoy it also.)
We at The American Catholic like to keep an eye, frequently jaundiced, on popular culture. One recent development that I enthusiastically endorse are videos posted by individuals on Youtube discussing “book hauls”, books that they have recently purchased. I find this heartening. I have always regarded myself as a hopeless book addict, and now I learn that my addiction is socially acceptable, perhaps even cutting edge! This post will therefore tell you about a book haul I made yesterday, but first a bit of background information.
When I was growing up in Paris, Illinois, my mother and father used to give me and my brother a dollar each as our allowance. (Considering that between them my parents brought home about a $100.00 a week, I thought the allowance was rather generous. ) My parents expected us to clean the house each day before school, to do the dishes and to run to the grocery store to pick up items during the week. It was emphasized to us that the allowances were not payment for our work. We worked at our chores because we were members of the family, and our parents gave us our allowances because we were members of the family.
You could do a lot with a dollar when you were a kid in the sixties. Comic books cost 12 cents, cokes were a dime, candy could be purchased for a nickel to a dime. However, I spent a fair part of my money at the local Goodwill. Paris did not have a bookstore, but the Goodwill had a bookcase with used paperbacks and hardbacks. The paperbacks were a nickel and the hardbacks were a dime. New used books came in fairly frequently. Most Saturday mornings I would go into the Goodwill and search through the books. It was there I first made the acquaintance of Plato, Aristotle and Aristophanes. On one memorable day, the divine Dante came my way for the first time with a paperback copy of Purgatorio, and a “new life” began for me. History books were plentiful, especially on the Civil War and World War II and I gobbled them up. Thus I began my personal library, and I have some of those books to this day. And so my
shameful addiction devotion to purchasing mass quantities of books as cheaply as I can began.
This week I have been on vacation, and one of the activities my family engages in when we are on vacation is to haunt book sales and used book stores. Yesterday we went to a booksale in Naperville. It is a perennial, and I look forward to it each summer. My family and I picked up 28 books for $67.00 Here are the books I picked out and why I chose them.
1. Dictionary of American Military Biography-This was the find of the day as far as I was concerned. I was unaware of the existence of this three volume set. Here it was waiting for me complete. (There was another set also available, but I decided not to be piggish and left the other set for some other lucky bibliophile.) One of the three editors of the set was a legendary Civil War historian, the late T. Harry Williams. Noted authors contributed bios to the three volumes, including the late Jay Luvaas, another distinguished Civil War historian. The bios are not squibs but full blown essays, and I will have much reading pleasure making my way through these 1200 pages.
2. Ben Gurion and the Birth of Israel-Part of the Landmark series put out in the Sixties on historical topics for young readers. I have been collecting these for years and had never seen this volume before. The book was published in 1967 and is in mint condition.
3. Shadow Knights: The Secret War Against Hitler-Part of a recent series which produces history books that are accurate in a pulp fiction format. Excellent for history minded teens that need to be convinced that history need not be dull.
4. Union 1812-A recent book on the War of 1812. There has been a resurgence of interest lately in the War of 1812, a trend that I welcome. Our Second War for Independence was far more important to our history than is commonly thought, as many of these recent histories point out.
5. The Templars-More rubbish has been written about the Templars than any other group from the Middle Ages. This history is a useful corrective. It is written by Piers Paul Read, a first rate historian and an orthodox Roman Catholic.
6. Attila King of the Huns-A good biography of the Scourge of God written in 1994.
7. Russia and the Golden Horde-Being under the Mongol Yoke for centuries had a profound impact on the Russians, one that was strongly negative I think.
8. Hardluck Ironclad-Edwin Bearss is a distinguished Civil War historian. This is one of his earlier works written in 1966 and details the history of the Union gunboat Cairo that was sunk during the Civil War, and his ultimately successful efforts to raise it from the Yazoo River.
9. Kasserine Pass-The late Martin Blumenson was one of the great historians of World War II. He began his career as a historical officer attached to the Third and Seventh Armies during the War, collecting the data that would eventually be used to produce the multi-volumed official history of US Army operations in World War II, the “green books” that are available online. Here he tells the story of the humiliating defeat inflicted by Rommel in North Africa at the battle of Kasserine Pass. The Army learned a lot of very valuable lessons from that early defeat and Blumenson describes in painful detail all the mistakes that went into making Kasserine Pass a debacle.
10. Mr. Lincoln Goes to War-This book by William Marvel, who is fairly hostile to Lincoln, details Lincoln’s first year as commander-in-chief. If you listen very carefully, you might be able to hear the grinding of my teeth as I make my way through this volume.
11. A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep-The first volume of the autobiography of acclaimed Catholic author Rumer Godden, who, among other novels, wrote In This House of Brede.
12. Three volumes of The Historian, the quarterly publication of Phi Alpha Theta-The historical articles in The Historian are usually good, but the book reviews are much, much better.
13. Bug Eyed Monsters-An anthology of BEM stories, with Bill Pronzini and Barry Malzberg as editors.
14. Origins of the Medieval World- Yet another thesis as to how antiquity was transformed into the Medieval World. This one was written by Professor William Carroll Bark when I was one year of age and I will see if I find his explanation any more convincing than the myriad of others that I have read.
15. Four volumes in the Best of series-Nelson-Doubleday in the Seventies did a series where they published Best of volumes on various science fiction authors. The hook was the series that they had the stories edited by a big name science fiction author and an introductory essay by the same author. In the fourvolumes we have the Best of C. M. Kornbluth (Frederick Pohl ed.); Leigh Bracket (Edmond Hamilton ed.); L. Sprague DeCamp (Poul Anderson ed.); and John W. Campbell (Lester Del Rey ed.).
16. Trips in Time-Nine time travel stories from big name Golden Age science fiction authors edited by Robert Silverberg.
I invite commenters to tell me about your recent bookhauls. Don’t be ashamed, be proud! Besides, this is only between me, you and our thousands of readers.