On my desk lies a book that has seen considerable use by someone in the past. It is in a plain binding, and it is nothing special to look at, really.
A physician friend in Florida is ridding himself of his collection of books by and about the great Baltimore writer Henry L. Mencken. I really wanted a Mencken book, and this one, entitled The American Language, covers issues in which I am most interested.
But it is not about Mencken's subject that I write. It is about books and their value.
Yes, I am aware that many of my friends and some of my family read from screens of electronic devices. Books, to me, are magic things.
About 20 years ago, I began giving away much of my library, some of it to younger ministers who might not have the funds to buy many books. Some of my books have gone to schools in Africa, where books are scarce.
Each giving away has caused me some pain, as I said goodbye to this or that favorite work.
I still have my "Huckleberry Finn," which was the first hard book I ever read. I did not understand the story completely, as I was only 8 when I sat under our pear tree to read about Huck and Jim and the fake actors on the raft.
I have my father's King James Bible. Some friends I cannot part with yet.
Truth is, I shall at some time leave the remainder of my small library. I have taken courage and recently began the process of saying farewell to a few more volumes.
Indeed, why should I own many books? The libraries have plenty of them.
What is it about books?
My Mencken volume has obviously been read, been used, been an influence not only to the original owner, but perhaps to many others.
So when I pick it up and gaze upon its shabby exterior, I am part of almost 90 years of other people's history.