Monday, July 18, 2016

Things I'm Learning from Papa's Book Inventory

Papa in bookstore, consulting
book directory before making
a purchase
My father was a collector. Stamps, magnets, photos, books.... Sometimes his collections morphed into dangerous territory -- if you'd seen his refrigerator and the number of cans stuffed in his kitchen cabinets you'd know what I mean. There's a thin line, I think, between the "collector" and "hoarder."

Anyhow, of all his collections, his books were by far, his most prized. His dream was to retire and build a library in the backyard of his Florida childhood home. He spoke of afternoons spent sitting in a rocking (or was it "easy?") chair, surrounded by his immense collection of books.

When I think of him now, of the afterlife, I know that's what it looks like for Papa. He's somewhere reading in a room surrounded by books.

Anyone who collects anything knows that some organization is required. For his books, my father kept a "Book Inventory." Basically it's a big binder with computer pages listing the titles he owned, when he read them, and what box they were then stored in. (The last printing/update was 02/25/2016.)

Yes, we have HUNDREDS of boxes of books to go through! The good news is that the Inventory makes all that so much easier. Each of us children is going through the Inventory and making a list of the books we'd like to keep. (I chose 70 titles.) Then we'll go find the boxes (some marked with numbers, some letters, some a combination: for instance, books he collected in Bismarck landed in boxes marked "BIS" plus whatever number).

Just going through the Inventory taught me a lot of things -- about my father, and about life. (See, Papa? You're still teaching me!)

1. The most books in Papa's collection were authored by Louis L'Amour. (He loved westerns! In his honor, and because we recently stayed in the "Zane Grey" room at Historic Prospect Hotel near Crater Lake National Park, I am currently reading THE MYSTERIOUS RIDER by Zane Grey.)

2. GOD is an author. (This is how Papa organized different versions of the Bible in a inventory organized alphabetically by the author's last name.)

3. All my mss, whether they wound up published or not, counted as books and were listed in his collection alongside the published ones. I'm so grateful and honored.

4. There were no "X" authors in the collection. (Want to stand out? Choose a pen name with an "x" last name!)

5. When I kept seeing "BOT" after a book title, I worried that I would never know what it meant. Then it came to me: "Book On Tape." (My father loved listening to books as much as reading them.)

6. The best represented poet in Papa's collection is Kahlil Gibran, who is the poet Papa introduced to me when I was a teen, and whose work Papa read aloud at my wedding.

7. A "want" list is every bit as important as the "I've got" list. I am filled with tenderness when I see the pages of titles Papa hadn't yet acquired. Most of them were books he'd listened to on tape, loved, and then wanted to own a print copy. (I do this, too! Listen to a book, love it, NEED to own it.) It reminds me that the fun of being a collector is often in the hunt, in the building of the collection -- not just in the "having" it.

The biggest thing I am learning is that death does not mark the end of a relationship -- we still have relationships that change and grow with people who are dead. Papa is with me in the pages of this Inventory, and in my daily life. Just like a good book, "The End" of life is just another beginning. xo


  1. I like the idea of the book inventory. Many times I go to the bookstore and can't remember if I've read that book or not and purchased it again only to discover I did read it and still have it! Thank you for sharing and what a great way to be closer to Papa.

  2. Your father just keeps on giving, doesn't he? I love that he had all your manuscripts in his inventory, and that he had a "want" list. xo

  3. So tender, Irene, especially about your pre-book, books :)
    I feel as if I know your dear Dad a bit, because of this.
    Appreciations for sharing

  4. Irene! Loved reading about your dad's book collection. So many thoughts...First, I need to read Zane Gray. I went through a big Louis L'Amour phase in middle school - how I loved those Sackett Boys. I have my mother's copy of The Prophet by Gibran. I remember in grade school taking all the books in our house to the basement to organize a library and take inventory. I had planned to give neighborhood kids cards to check them out, but I just had such fun organizing them for weeks, that never happened. I still think I maybe should have been a librarian. I keep an inventory of my Alphabet Book collection very like your dad's system - but not so extensive! Feel inspired by him, by you!

  5. Thank you for this post, Irene. I love what a fussbudget Mr. Dykes was about books, I'm the same way about children's poetry. I can relate to you dad. You're keeping his memory alive through your writing and your life. LATHAM POWER, DYKES POWER!

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