They’re not all mine, these books on our shelves. Many of them are, but a good number—mostly the ones about advertising, marketing, and Nazis—belong to my wife who still insists that she not be named here. Our daughter Deirdre has a lot of books up there, starting with the complete Nancy Drew series up to a lot of stuff that I guess would be classified as Literature. She now works in the U.S. at one of the largest corporations in the world doing, among other things, what I like to call “wordsmithing.” Economist-son David owns some of the other books, notably, a paperback copy of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations that he seems to have actually read. There’s a picture book on Jiu-Jitsu and a huge volume titled simply Sauces, both of which I’m sure are his because he is the only athlete and cook in the family.
Ironically, we have two copies of The Black Swan, if you know what I mean. I also still have my copy of Powerpoint 4 for Dummies. Forty-year-old textbooks from my Malcolm Hall days have pride of place even if I only really practiced law for maybe three years. Related story: for a long time, I couldn’t read legal thrillers because they reminded me too much of what I wasn’t doing, until I chanced upon a novel by Scott Turow. He writes better than John Grisham in my opinion, and I have all of Turow’s books now scattered around the house, including One L which I recommend to every young person thinking about going to law school. Yup, I have a lot of books. Sci-fi, history, biography, military, management, travel, detective. I have beautiful coffee table books on GMA, ABSCBN and the St. Peter Group. My most prized possession, however, is a book about romance—the 1953 Philippinensian containing photos of my parents from around the time they met each other at U.P.
As professors my dad and mom authored books of their own, reference books in agricultural engineering and botany, respectively; hence, we always had books in the house, but I distinctly remember the first book I could call my very own. I got it after I earned the First Honor award in Grade One (and my sister was the grade school valedictorian). Dad brought us to the PECO bookstore in Makati and said we could each choose one book. I selected a Grade Two science book.
“Is this really the one you want?” Dad asked.
“Yes,” the nerd replied.
When my wife and I were raising our own children, we restricted them to one new toy per month but also told them that for books there was no limit. They could have as many as they wanted, whenever they wanted them. It was a good rule, I think.
People who see our shelves ask, Have you read all those books cover to cover? Of course not. I just bought those books so I would have an impressive Zoom background. But seriously, I have Webster’s Third New International Dictionary. The big one. Two thousand six hundred sixty-two glorious pages of definitions. I have not read it. I just love how it smells.
I know there are many people out there who understand what all this storytelling of mine is about. Kindred spirits. Members of the brotherhood of books. People who, pre-pandemic, used to go to the Big Bad Wolf book sale and leave with armloads. People who’d rather visit a great library than spend time at a theme park. People who, as my genius sister once said, might call their books “tomes.” People who fervently believe you have to be a Nazi to want to burn a book. This is a shout out, maybe even a love letter, to all those who can relate. You are not alone.
Every book has stories beyond those found in its pages. Just as we read between the written lines we attach personal meanings to the books we read and keep. I’d enjoy reading your stories.