Columnist Carl Kline

You can’t beat a really good read

By Carl Kline


Posted 4/15/24


Another library book sale has come and gone. They happen twice a year; in the spring and the fall. They are organized and delivered by “Friends of the Library” and all the …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
Columnist Carl Kline

You can’t beat a really good read


Another library book sale has come and gone. They happen twice a year; in the spring and the fall. They are organized and delivered by “Friends of the Library” and all the proceeds go toward library needs. We are “Friends,” having purchased a lifetime membership and are able to attend the sale the first evening it is open. As usually happens, we left after 45 minutes with three bags full.

It’s not that we need more books, but, I must confess, I have an addiction. I always justify it by saying, it’s not cigarettes, or booze, or drugs; it’s only books. Still, I know deep down, it’s still an addiction. If I see a stimulating title, a favorite subject matter, or an author I like, the book goes in the bag. I have the same problem at Barnes and Noble, where the prices are 10 times as high.

This latest sale I went back a second time when there wasn’t such a rush. I could take my time and make sure I read each title on the table (and under the table), then examine those of interest before bagging them. Of course, I only looked at books in certain categories. I don’t cook, except macaroni and cheese now and then, so why look at cook books. And the “travel” category only appeals to me, were we intending a cruise or fancy vacation. Not a chance! Besides, I can travel at home reading good fiction. On this second visit, I only filled one bag.

I not only read books, collect books, give-away books, and buy more books; I also sell books. There are two shelving units full at Threads of Memories antique store, where my wife and I have a booth. Some of them are rare. Many of them are collectible. Imagine my surprise when I discovered three books at the library sale I had sold at Threads, with my identifying information inside the cover. Two were in the religion section; one was in with books about South Dakota.

I also have to be careful at the library sale I don’t buy back books I have donated. We have the same problem with puzzles! Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have put together dozens, usually donating them to the library or Goodwill when finished. We’ve done enough of them, we can’t always be sure we’re not buying back a donation.

When I left campus ministry at SDSU, I had more books than I knew what to do with. So I had a book give-away. I filled two tables from my shelves and invited folks going through our campus ministry center to take them. Within the week they were all gone. Of course, after leaving campus ministry, the shelves at home began to fill.

When nine shelving units were full, one in the office that meant walking sideways through a doorway and another blocking heat to the room, I decided to down-size once more.

Four large boxes of books disappeared at a give-away at the church and more were donated to Goodwill and the library for their sale.

Since my last give-away, and since bringing books home as Threads moved to a new location, bags of books are prolific, all over the corners in the bedroom and office. For sure there will be a garage sale this summer and books will be on the agenda, and I’ll be gifting whoever comes around who is willing to take some home. I’m afraid one friend will quit visiting if I don’t quit pushing them on him, as he firmly resists my entreaties to take a book or two home with him.

Another friend and I get together now and then for coffee. We bring bags of books with us. He will take mine if he hasn’t read them before and they come with a good recommendation, and I will do the same with his. I was pleased the last time we got together, as he was unable to collect some in time for our meeting and ended up relieving me of several.

With the advent of the internet, there were those who expected books to disappear, as one could increasingly access the same material on a computer or phone. Fortunately, it appears that forecast was mistaken, as many still opt for a book they hold in their hands rather than a screen sitting on a desk. I’m quite sure the young people I see walking by the house with their phone waist high are not reading a book. In fact, screen time seldom provides much that is substantial; usually just bits and pieces; attention grabbers.

On the other hand, there is an understanding like that of a Cicero: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Or, from Ann Patchett, one of those authors I aways look for at the library book sale: “Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brain beyond the 140 characters of sound-bite thinking, and staying within the world of a novel gives us the ability to be quiet and alone, two skills that are disappearing faster than the polar icecaps.”

Fiction also gives us some modest relief from the trials and troubles of modern life. We can only stand so much political partisanship and nation-state warfare, corroding our best instincts.

For me, books can help us visit times and places we will never experience otherwise, and can educate and uplift us with new knowledge and spiritual sustenance. Three cheers for libraries, book stores, authors and their books. They offer us an irreplaceable gift.