Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Save the Books!

Save the Books!
Libraries across the country are clearing the shelves and emptying the stacks of low-demand books.  It makes sense; why waste expensive "real-estate" on books very few people read?  Why not fill the shelves with high-demand titles?

But there's a problem with that rationale.  It presumes that high-demand is equal to high-quality.  

It is not.

Let's face it:  very little of popular fiction deserves to be called literature.  By its very nature, popular fiction (and non-fiction, for that matter), is disposable.  I say this with all due respect to authors of popular fiction; I'm desperately working on a novel of my own.  But I'm under no illusion that it is great literature.  

So, the libraries are clearing the shelves of low-demand titles, especially non-fiction.  It's a shame, really.  Wonderful books are being discarded to make room for popular titles many of which will be discarded within 5 years (or much less).  With the proliferation of e-readers, many of those titles are not even being read on paper.  Even I have stopped purchasing my own leisure fiction on paper; I read it on my phone or my computer.  Still, many wonderful old titles are being pitched.

Admittedly, much of the subject matter is arcane:  maps of medieval Europe published in the 1920s, anyone?  But these are history.  They provide a snapshot of culture at the time of their printing.  Many are worth saving.  So, I'm starting a campaign to Save the Books!  It is up to us, the readers, to preserve these treasures.

To whet your appetite, here is one I've saved recently:

The granddaddy of them all . . .

Southern Harmony and Musical Companion by William Walker

Much of modern Protestant hymnody is based on the original frontier songbook from the 1850s.  This modern reprint, from University of Kentucky Press, is a treasure which explains the history of the particular text and its usage among the singing Christians on the frontier.  Many of the songs will be familiar, and also are the basis for the Big Singing in Benton, KY.  This book documents the warp on which the weft of modern hymnody is woven.

So, for the next few weeks, I'll be sharing some of my treasures in the hope that you, too, will join the campaign to Save the Books!

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