From the Stacks
by Carol Ann Robb, PPL Reference Librarian
Earlier in the week, I wrote in the Morning Sun that May is Older Americans Month and I started thinking, “Is there an Older Books Month”?
No, I couldn’t find one but why not? There’s nothing wrong with reading older books. Unless it’s for an assignment, books don’t have a “Best By” date stamped on them. A good read doesn’t diminish with age (but if it wasn’t very good to begin with, well, no amount of time will improve it) And if you’ve not read a book before, then it’s actually new to you.
What do I consider an older book? Well, there’s Classic Literature titles that have lasted for centuries because of their timeless themes and well-crafted writing (but you’ll also find some real duds that are good for nothing more than re-purposed book art). Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of classics but have re-read John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley”—it’s a great look at the cultural history of the early 1960’s. And can anyone read “To Kill a Mockingbird” just once? (and if you’ve not read it at all, I highly recommend you come check it out). Sometimes books are like a pair of old, broken-in shoes that you keep wearing because they’re oh so comfortable.
But when I talk about older books I’m thinking of the vast aisles of stacks behind the “New Books” shelves. They had their year of glory basking front and center as they pull readers to their shiny, faced-out covers—but after they turn a year old, it’s off to the regular stacks with the other “old” books. That doesn’t mean those titles are past their prime; more readers should take a walk through those aisles to find a “new” old title. That’s how I found Louise Miller a couple of years back—“The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living” and “The Late Bloomer’s Club” were fun, light reads. I’m sure in a few weeks I’ll be wandering back to grab Mark Sullivan’s “Beneath a Scarlet Sky”; having finished “The Last Green Valley” I now want to read his earlier (ie, “older”) work. And the best older books can be found in the 641’s—cookbooks. Recipes don’t go out of style (in fact, we have some with Retro in their titles—they are a hoot to look at!)
Old doesn’t necessarily mean a book is out-of-style, irrelevent, obsolete, or outdated. Think of them as being vintage, retro, and timeless, all qualities that a discerning person of culture embraces. What more can one ask for in a book?