Summer of the Old Books

The cover of the first edition of Adventures o...

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There is NOTHING like a really, really old book. And I’ve got plenty.

I was never one to make a summer reading list, or summer reading goal – that was the school’s job, not mine. But, over the past few weeks, I’ve acquired enough books to keep me busy for a good month. (If they aren’t boring!) There is some sort of attraction in old books, because, well, they’re old. Not to mention their old-book-smell. I picked up random, elderly literature from garage sales to rummage sales, ignoring any squeaky clean, recent titles and heading straight for the fading, torn pages of a book older than me. The thought of holding something that, though maybe not worth much money, is actually history is…extraordinary. Someone who was very young when this book first hit the market might have passed away by now, or is quite old. I always try to imagine what it was like when masterpieces like Alice in Wonderland or Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea first were published. Was it a hit? Was it rejected? Now that most people know who the Mad Hatter and the Red Queen are and lots know what a submarine is, how did it feel, reading these stories NEW? And now, that classic stories like Frankenstein and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer are classics and referenced all the time, how would the author feel, knowing his or her work is permanent? (And yes, you’re included, too, Shakespeare.)

In order of oldest to youngest, here’s what I’m going to devour this summer:

  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818) – All I really know from the story is there is a man trying to bring life back into the dead. That’s pretty lame. I want to know the characters, the setting, the WHOLE plot, not just some dead guy who was brought back to life. There’s got to be more to it…right?
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884) – I did a project on Mark Twain, once. That’s basically why I chose to purchase this book. I want to see how he writes.
  • Life’s Shop Window by Victoria Cross (1907) – Never heard of this one. But it caught my eye as being the oldest looking book at the rummage sale. I don’t even know what it’s about, but it’s old, which is cool.
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911) – I’m pretty sure this is a children’s book, but it’s so OLD! I couldn’t resist. I think someone told me it was a good story, so I’ll see!
  • Ein Sommer in Deutschland by Edward Manley (1912) – My Aunt gave me this. It has a glorious old book smell and such swirly old script that I have a hard time discerning which letter is which. It is all in German; however, it’s meant for German students to read. Simpler words and notes in the back helping with translation. So, it’s a two-in-one deal: it’s in Deutsch AND it’s very, very old!
  • The Little Prince/Airman’s Odyssey by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943 & 1939, respectively) – I think The Little Prince is such a cute book, and is really quite unique. I’m also reading the German translation (which is really difficult) Der Kleine Prinz. The book I have is a collection, which combines the two stories. I know nothing about Airman’s Odyssey except that it’s a trilogy.
  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by …Anne Frank (1952) – I’ve wanted to read this for a while and finally snagged it today! I read the play version in English class last year, but that is nothing compared to the DIARY written by the real girl, Anne, herself! I love reading diaries or any type of personal account of something, because it’s personal. I can get the real sense of what conditions were like, instead of reading about some historical facts in a textbook. I learn history better with feeling – talking to someone who lived through it, hearing songs about it, looking at pop culture from the time, DIARIES…
  • Man of La Mancha by Dale Wasserman, Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh (1966) – For some reason, I picked this up, but when I got home, I realized it was a musical! Fantastic. Not much of a Broadway fan myself, I was about to think “Whatever…” but I remembered that I picked it up thinking it was really about Don Quixote (the only reason I know who that is, is because Coldplay sang a song about it…alas, I live a sheltered life) but it’s just a play based on that story and its author. Maybe I’ll have to act it out in a one-girl show. I’m warming up my voice now.

The last book kind of doesn’t count because it’s not too old. But, it’s still older than I am!

*Not to be excluded are books I’ve already read, or just found in my house: Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (thanks Dad), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, and Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol (betcha didn’t know he had history with the uke. HA!)


9 thoughts on “Summer of the Old Books

  1. SO! I have actually (admittedly) read a lot of the books discussed on your old list. I’ve read The Secret Garden, The Little Prince, Diary of Anne Frank, The Phantom Tollbooth, Alice in Wonderland, and I have Twenty Thousand Leagues on my kindle, but I haven’t gotten to it yet. Weird.

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