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He had only one shelf lined with books, which was odd to me because I come from generation after generation of book lovers; houses filled with books. But not this boy. Just one shelf, with only the books he really treasured. He had Hemingway and Burroughs and a severely broken in copy of Howl. These were books his mother had read, books that shaped his memory of her. He had a hardcover copy of every Shel Silverstein book, and I liked this, because it was so very much like him—silly rhymes and sketches –for the kids he would say. For himself, I would think.

He had a worn in copy of Treasure Island and I loved to lay on his bed and flip through it’s mildewed pages. It had belonged to his uncle, who handed it to him on his sixth birthday. It was the first book he read cover to cover by himself.

Oh plenty of other books came and went through his house. Textbooks on the sofa and paperbacks on the nightstand. But none of these ever stayed. A strange affair he had with books, the few that he was loyal to. I asked him once, where he got this passion for reading; wanted to be told that it was me, even knowing that it wasn’t.

He told me his father had shelves and shelves with multiple copies of meaningless books, first editions and last editions and signed copies and marked through copies, all of which only said to me, pretentious prick. What a horrible waste. His father told me once that this was true; that when any author that showed any potential of dying soon he would buy any and all copies of their books that he could find. Especially autographed or first editions. The only plot he had any concern with, ever, was money, and books were no different. He could surely buy a signed first edition copy of any novel before the author died for cheap, and then turn around and sell it once the author’s time had run out and easily double his money. To me, this was a poor man’s thinking, and I doubted that he ever read anything of sustenance.

But it was his mother who really read. Sat curled up in an easy chair and licked her fingers before turning every page. Said, quiet son and I will read you these words, listen to what is said and what is not said. Who kept her bookshelves clean and organized, so she never had to fumble through them to reach her favorites. His books aren’t for him but for the memory of her.

I like to think of his books like this from time to time, for the memory of him.

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