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There is always room for 1 more book

In a world of short attention spans, constant change and instant everything, it’s a comfort to know you can still lose yourself in a good book.
I grew up in a house of readers. It wasn’t uncommon, for example, for my father to have two or three books going at the same time, typically of vastly different genres. So you’d see him in his den, studying the latest “Making of the President” series, written by Theodore White, while on an end table in the family room, Hemingway’s “Islands in the Stream” would be bookmarked with a matchbook cover.
Mom was equally voracious, though her tastes tended to historical fiction and a series that the public library dubbed “Crime Club” novels, mostly whodunits that she’d inhale with reliable regularity.
And then there was my sister, who, once she’d finished with the latest edition of “Tiger Beat” magazine, could be found curled up with something from “The Borrowers” catalog or the newest “Mushroom Planet” installment, written by Eleanor Cameron.
My brother, well, let’s just say reading was his best and most reliable friend, and as his tastes matured from “The Hardy Boys” to Saul Bellow, he had to apply for special permission to upgrade his library card from children’s to adult status.
I think he was like 9 years old at the time.
As for me, I can still remember a poster, handwritten by my fourth-grade teacher, a nun who helped instill in me my love of books. It read, “After three days without reading, talk becomes stale.” I’ve always believed it to be her original thought, though I resist the cruel curiosity to Google it.
The walls of the house were literally lined with bookshelves, not with “Hey, look at me!” braggadocio, but in a reserved, rather dignified manner that suggested tools stored in their proper places.
The house that my wife and I have called home since the turn of the century has wonderful built-in bookshelves in the living room, but beyond that, nothing.
So we’ve accumulated quite a collection of them: some floor-to-ceiling showpieces, others less grand and still others we’ve picked up on a whim at antique stores.
The last time I counted we had 14 of them, and most are crammed to capacity. In fact my wife has taken it upon herself to store several hundred volumes — most of them my paperbacks from college and before — in plastic tubs stored in closets, the garage and the outdoor shed.
It was a practice I fought at the outset. “What if I need that Frank Edwards book on UFOs?” I wailed. “Or that copy of 'Rabbit Run' with my original notes in the margin?”
She smiled. “Just replace it with one already on a shelf,” she said. “Easy peasy.”
So I’ve gotten used to that practice, though I have cheated a bit here and there.
I mean you can’t just bring one book on the 1969 Mets. You’ll want to have all of them, nicely arranged in a tidy row.
That’s why what I call my Stereo Room is such a godsend. In addition to the thousand or so albums housed in cinder-block-and-heart-of-pine shelves on the west wall, there are three separate free-standing book cases positioned strategically throughout the 15-by-18 room.
And the walk-in closet? Plenty of room for many more books and magazines, some dating to my elementary school days and the Scholastic Book selections I’ve kept for 50 years.
My wife has stated, on more than one occasion, that I exhibit “hoarder” tendencies, but I brush those words aside deftly, saying, “Better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them.”
Speaking of my wife, we were talking on the patio the other morning — under one of those sun-splashed Carolina blue skies that have to be seen to be appreciated — and the subject of books arose.
The context was a new movie based on “A Wrinkle in Time,” the Madeleine L’Engle novel that was a must-read for kids as they approached adolescence in the late '60s.
When you’ve been with a person more than 30 years, as we have, you think you’re pretty much shockproof when it comes to things like favorite books or foods or records or movies.
But I have to admit that I was taken aback when my wife admitted she’d never read “A Wrinkle in Time.” Not as a preteen, not as an adult. Never.
“That’s crazy,” I said. “You were always reading. You’ve told me all about those Summer Book Clubs at the library and how you had finished 20 reports before the rest of us had gotten our passes to the swimming pool.”
“Your point being?” she asked, regarding me with stark irritation, a look she saves for those with inferior IQs or questionable hygiene.
“It’s a classic!” I explained. “You had to have read it.”
She shook her head and returned her attention to her Kindle.
“Well,” I said, “I’ll solve that right now.”
A half-hour later, having been through all 14 bookshelves, every closet, the garage, even the storage shed in the back yard, I sat back down, empty handed.
“I know I have a copy of it somewhere in this house,” I murmured.
“I’m sure you do, sweetie,” she said, smiling. “I’m sure you do.”
Mike Dewey can be reached at CarolinamikeD@aol.com">CarolinamikeD@aol.com or at 6211 Cardinal Drive, New Bern, NC 28560. He invites you to join the fun on his Facebook page.

Published: March 12, 2018
New Article ID: 2018180309929