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2018-08-08 / Columnists

Just Bill

Taking Time for Books during Busy Week
Musings from the Mind of Bill Diem

Mostly I have been reading while my leg bone heals, but yesterday we all voted, I hope. We chose candidates who will run against each other in November, and we chose neighbors to represent us in county and township business.

I couldn’t make the Luce West-Mackinac Fair, but I did get to the 906 party in Curtis over the weekend on crutches. I also spent some hours last Wednesday sitting on a plastic chair in the shade beside the Curtis library.

It was the day of its annual book sale, raising money for the Friends of the Library. Volunteers had set up tables, organized books by fiction and non-fiction, etc. I could hobble a few feet to look things over and make a few choices to peruse.

I picked up one book on winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor. It didn’t have all 2,000-plus stories, but a nice selection, including the first one, the first to a black man and first (and only) to a woman, all three of those from the Civil War.

I read about Eddie Rickenbacker, who shot down 25 German planes in the last months of World War I, and a Japanese-American in the Korean War. I was about to read about Sgt. Alvin York when I saw a guy with a USMC cap and offered it to him, because space is at a premium on our bookshelves.

Gary told me he had read that Americans spend 11 hours a day looking at electronic screens. That upsurge probably accounts for the down-surge in the perceived value of books.

When it threatened rain after four hours of the book sale, librarian Linda Blanchard invited browsers to take what they wanted at no charge, because every book carried off to a good home didn’t have to be rehandled by the volunteers.

I like books. I took a book from the “free books” table at the Marquette library two weeks ago on architectural details of houses in Mexico. I brought a little French book with me on the plane that came from one of those “take one - leave one” boxes like you see outside the grocery in Germfask.

In the past I’ve donated books to the Curtis sale, changing over some shelves from my late mother’s choices to my own. And I try to pass on books that I have read and don’t want to keep.

The problem of space is severe. Some bookish friends attack this problem with technology, reading books on a tablet. I get it, and I have done it, but I don’t like it. But I just can’t throw a book away.

We brought back a box of kids’ books and a few others from the Curtis sale, and left a donation. My favorite find was a 1906 book, Harrison Fisher’s American Beauties, with poems and lithographs of pretty women he had drawn. I thought, “This must be valuable,” and leafed through, and found one page where someone in the past needed a scrap of paper for a note and tore out a dollar-sized fragment under an illustration. How could he? But the book is still a treasure.

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