Saturday 25 August 2018

Why Keep Books?

Today I went to the Historical House and filled boxes with books.  When I first started this gargantuan task, I decided to start with books I didn't want anymore. The problem, as I may have mentioned, is that I don't feel comfortable getting rid of B.A.'s books. And I definitely do not want the vast majority of B.A.'s books. Did he really read Justine? Will he ever read Justine? I have my doubts.

However, the very thought of choosing between his books made my poor, radiated husband feel very tired, and he shouted "What?!" when I said I didn't think I needed the Latin-language version of the Summa Theologica anymore.

The problem with books--and we have hundreds--is that too many are relics of one's one past and very often represent destroyed dreams. For example, I have dozens of theological textbooks which I bought and kept because I sincerely believed that I was going to be a professor of theology and would need them. That is why I have, for example, most of the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, not to mention the Summa in both English and its original Latin. I even have Mary Daly's Beyond God the Father--or had, as I have binned it.

I also have quite a few books I have never read and may never read and many, many books I have read but may never read again. Therefore, it seems mad to keep them around.

Poor B.A. countered that he has books because he likes to sit in a room surrounded by good books into which he can dip when the mood strikes him.

I did not point out that he has not sat in such a room for over six months and, like me, does most of his reading on the internet and, because computers impede sleep, goes to bed with the Spectator. I even stopped nagging him about discarding books. He was sitting on the edge of the soon-to-be-abandoned sofa bed in what used to be our library, half the back of his head shaved or simply bald. He looked as weak as a kitten.

So I spent the day putting books in boxes without making judgements and taped the boxes shut. However, I know perfectly well that it may be a very long time before those boxes are every opened again. Therefore I began to fill a big red wheeled suitcase with books I need and read often. And because I am a nice wife, really, I made sure I brought some books B.A. highly values, has read recently and will probably read again.

So here are the books that have actually made it to St. Benedict Over the Apple Tree. Most of them came with me today, dragged half a mile in a suitcase or carried on my back:

Churchy, Liturgical & Theological (mostly B.A.'s)
The Holy Bible (NRSV, Catholic)
Biblia (the Bible in Polish and therefore not B.A.'s)
Chwalmy Pana (Polish prayers & liturgy book)
The Monastic Diurnal
The Penny Catechism 

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (in English)
Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi
CCCB, Statement on the Formation of the Conscience (aka Winnipeg Statement)
Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy
Alice Thomas Ellis, Serpent on the Rock 
Adrian Fortescue et al, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described
Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Holy Mass
St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae 
Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, Gardening the Soul
Joseph Kramp, S.J., Live the Mass (1925)
Peter Kwasniewski, Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness
Father Lasance, The New Roman Missal (1945)
Robert Llewelyn, A Doorway to Silence (super-High Anglican guide to the Rosary)
Richard John Neuhaus, Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy and the Splendor of Truth

Aidan Nichols, O.P., Critising the Critics
Aidan Nichols, O.P., The Holy Eucharist
Aidan Nichols, O.P., Holy Order
Aidan Nichols, O.P., Lovely Like Jerusalem
Aidan Nichols, O.P., The Realm
Aidan Nichols, O.P., The Shape of Catholic Theology*

Pius X. Catechism św. Piusza. Vademecum katolika (I'm going to memorise it. That's the plan.)
Fr. Jacques Phillipe, Searching for and Maintaining Peace 

Card. Joseph Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy
Card. Joseph Ratzinger, God and the World

Henry Sire, Phoenix from the Ashes 
Aelred Squire, Asking the Fathers
Ks. Józef Tischner, Krótki przewodnik po życiu

Thomas Ahnert, The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment, 1690-1805
William Zachs, Without Regard to Good Manners

Associated Press, Guide to News Writing
Emma Lee-Potter, Interviewing for Journalists
Strunk & White, Elements of Style 

Peter C. Brown et al. Make it Stick
Gabriel Wyner, Fluent Forever

Larousse French-English, Anglais-Francais New College Dictionary

JACT, Reading Greek
Langenscheidt, Pocket Greek Dictionary
Liddell & Scott, Greek-English Lexicon
Oxford Grammar of Classical Greek

Collins Concise Italian-English, English-Italian Dictionary
MOIT, Il Mio Primo Dizionario
Oxford, Mini Italian Dictionary
Esplora Firenze con Dante e i suoi amici
Un Giorno in Italia 2

Langensheidt, Premium Slownik polsko-angielski/angielsko-polsku (cut in 2 halves, a sign of love)
Langensheidt, Slownik uniwersalny, Angielski
Oxford & PWN, English-Polish Dictionary
Assimil, Le Polonais
Klara Janecki, 301 Polish Verbs 
Iwona Sadowska, Polish: A Comprehensive Grammar 
Oscar E. Swan, Polish Verbs & Essentials of Grammar 

C. Alan Ames, Through the Eyes of Jesus (gift of pious neighbour)
Martin Amis, The Information (accident)
Anita Brookner, Hotel du Lac
Alice Thomas Ellis, The Summerhouse Trilogy
George MacDonald Fraser, The Complete McAuslan

C.S. Lewis, Książe Kaspian
C.S. Lewis, Podróż Wędrowca do świtu (Polish trans. of below)
C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love & Love in a Cold Climate
Bolesław Prus, Lalka
Bolesław Prus, The Doll (English trans. of above)

& two poetry books belonging to tutor which I mean to give back soon

Eyewitness Guides, Poland
Victoria Harrison, Happy by Design
Jack Monroe, A Girl Called Jack: 100 Delicious Budget Recipes 
Cal Newport, Deep Work
Matthew Rice, Rice's Architectural Primer 
Simon Sinek, Start With Why
Brian Tracy, Eat That Frog
Kate Watson-Smith, Mad About the House
Lexie Williamson, The Stretching Bible

That appears to be 77 or so. Dear me. And that is the smallest drop in the library bucket.

Why I brought all the Classical Greek books when I am unlikely to be called upon to teach it ever again is a mystery. Lest I appear more high-brow than I actually am, I bring your attention to my must-have English novels. Well, Brookner is eminently respectable (I do think Hotel du Lac is a masterpiece). The others are for comfort (or Polish studies).

I think I have at last answered my question. Some books you need as tools, but others are simply for comfort: mind snacks.

*B.A. really loves the work of Aidan Nichols. He once got me to take at least some of these books to a conference where Nichols was speaking for the learned priest to sign. The great man kindly did so although he seemed a little surprised by the number.


  1. I visited someone recently, a widowed Japanese and Art teacher. Her house was full of books to a pathological extent. There were rooms that were totally useless because of the books. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall. There were also heaps of pagan/Buddhist gods about the place.

    1. Well, Buddha isn't a god; he's just a prince-hero figure, right? He lives in the garden next door, and at the sight of him, my friend J. said B.A. and I must get a statue of the BVM. In Toronto, that would not be a big deal--everyone would assume we were Portuguese or Italian--but in Scotland it's like hanging a Confederate flag in North Virginia. So I am unsure I want to have a statue of the BVM in the garden just to offset Buddha next door.

  2. Oooh, loving the new color scheme! Easier to read, and makes me think of apple-leaves in spring!

  3. Between college graduation and getting married, I moved something like ten times in twelve years. Books become less and less lovely to own each time they need to be moved. By the time I got married, only my very favorites remained.