I think I've been following Sam's blog, Book Chase, almost since I started blogging. He, like me, is a fan of Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley novels, and I admire his (complete I think?) collection of Joyce Carol Oates books (an author I've read far too little of), which you can see in the third photo below. Sam is a recently retired Oil & Gas professional who, with the exception of a few years spent in North Africa, London, and China, has lived in Houston for more than forty years. He finally has time for some of the finer things in life: books, baseball, and bluegrass music. He greatly looks forward to attending book festivals and music events around the country--if the weather ever warms up.
1. Describe your library/bookshelves. Are the books randomly placed or do you have them organized in a special way?
For years, my shelves were a mixture of randomness and little groupings of favorite topics or authors. But it got so difficult for me to locate that one book I could picture so clearly in my m ind that I finally decided to bring some order to the shelves by alphabetizing all the fiction by author.
My main shelves have three sections, with the middle section reserved primarily for nonfiction (by subject), old books, and my growing Library of American collection (up to 62 volumes now). It includes a shelf for books about authors that is a mix of nonfiction and novels, one on country music history, and one that holds my favorite books about baseball and travel memoirs, including several favorites about long-distance walking treks.
I also have a separate bookshelf for my collection of Civil War books. The books are mostly nonfiction, but I house my smaller collection of Civil War novels on one of the shelves. As a Southerner, and descendent of at least one Confederate soldier, I tend to collect books about Southern officers, but I am also a big admirer of Grant and Lincoln, so I have numerous volumes on both men, as well as books about a few Union generals.
3. Are your books confined to one area or are they spread out over your house?
Other than my closets (in several rooms) Imentioned, my books are pretty much confined to my study. I do have a few strays that end up in places I last read them, and I always keep a book in the car for those times I end up stuck in traffic or in some long, boring line or doctor's office. Now, I do have to admit that my wife if the "book policeman," not me. As long as I keep them shelves or out of sight, she is happy enough to see me bring new ones into the house at a continuing rate of three or four a week. That seems a small enough price to pay.
I bought a whole lots of books in 1989 for some reason--so many that I have still not read all of them, meaning I have a lot of twenty-three-year-old books to choose from when it comes to the oldest unread book on my shelves. Let's go with Amy Tan's first novel, The Joy Luck Club, as representative of that period. 1989 was the first year I could afford to indulge my reading habit, and I really overdid it. So I have a pristine (and I mean never opened) first edition copy of the novel that, from what I understand, has become a collector's item. In fact, modern first edition collectors consider several of those 1989 books very desirable, so I guess I had good instincts back then.
5. What is your most treasured book?
My collection includes some fairly valuable books--and some early Charles Dickens volumes that I treasure. But my most treasured book is worth about 30 cents: a Signet paperback of Planet of the Apes that I bought in a Nashville bus station in May of 1968. I treasure the book because of the memories associated with it. I bought the book while in Nashville on a three-day pass I had earned during Army Basic Training in nearby Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. We were allowed no reading material during basic and I knew that I would have to somehow hide the book from my Drill instructors for the final three weeks of training or I would lose it. Well, it's still with me, and every time I pick it up, I feel nineteen-years-old again--and then I notice how old and yellow the pages are.
6. If you could pick one "lost in the stacks/on your bookshelves" book to rediscover and share with other readers, which would it be?
I would choose MacKinlay Kantor's Andersonville 1955 novel about the infamous Georgia prisoner-of-war camp in which so many Union soldiers died horrible deaths during the Civil War. When I first read the novel, I knew very little about Andersonville and what really happened there. I expected that Kantor had greatly exaggerated the truth or created some incidents just to make this story more dramatic. And I was wrong. Truth, in this instance is every bit as strange as fiction, and this is the one book that I recommend to people when they ask me why I am so fascinated by Civil War history. This 760-page chunkster has led more than one person I know to share that passion with me. It's a little intimidating at first glance but this book is a wonderful read.
Had to share these two photos not least for the Poe, Woolf and Twain figurines, but I also spot a shelf full of Modern Library editions (I've toyed with collecting them myself . . .).
This brick paperweight, which you can just glimpse in the top photo sitting on the library stairs on the right side of Sam's bookcase has an interesting provenance. It was salvaged by Sam from William Faulkner's flowerbeds years ago when the gardener was redoing the beds. A very cool piece of literary history, don't you think?
Many thanks to Sam for sharing photos of his bookshelves with us. Check back next Friday for a peek into another reader's library.