Tuesday, June 9, 2009

No References

I was in Connecticut last weekend, poking around a book sale. I’d been driving through town and a sign caught my eye. “Giant Book Sale.” For once this was actually an accurate adjective. In fact I’ve never seen such a vast array of books for sale outside of, say, Powell's Bookstore in Portland. There were paperbacks and hardbacks, well-used and hardly touched. They were scattered all over the parking lot, inside a garage and spread throughout the rooms of the basement. When I asked one of the women in charge if I could donate some books to the cause (it was a fundraiser for the local Lutheran Church) she looked positively panicked. “No- I’m sorry, but we really have enough books,” she said. She later relented and said I could add a few books to the vast piles “but only if they’re fiction.”

After depositing a dozen or so novels in the fiction section, I began browsing. I was surprised by how many wine books I found. And not just the coffee table tomes of beautiful wineries that their readers presumably got tired of looking at (or depressed by) but all the great reference books like Parker’s Bordeaux and the Gambero Rosso guide to Italian wine and many, many copies of Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine. How did these books end up in a church basement? Had their owners exchanged them for newer versions? Or had they been gifts to people who didn’t really care about wine or had their owners learned everything there was to know about wine?

The last possibility is unthinkable of course. There's always more to learn about wine. Although I cull my books regularly (and after three moves in as many years it’s as much a practical necessity as a personal credo) I’ve never gotten rid of a single reference book. There's always more to know about wine. And besides, what if the answer to a question you had was actually in the book you’d just given away?

B the way, I’m happy to report I didn’t find copies of my books in the sale. On the other hand, maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough. I wonder: What wine books have you given away recently – and why?

1 comment:

  1. I wish I had seen that church basement sale. I'm just starting out getting a good collection of wine reference books. I think I still have an 11th grade history text somewhere in my apartment, on the off chance someone will challenge me to know exact happenings of 16th century Italy.

    I do throw out old paperback fiction from time to time though.