With Hurricane Irma headed straight for her house, Connie Ogle had to make some tough decisions. The most excruciating: Which books would she take? Which books would have to stay? And was there any way to protect the ones left behind?
Ogle writes about books (and wine! what a great combination) for the Miami Herald. She lives near the beach, in a flood zone. She owns thousands of books. You can’t protect — or carry away — thousands of books.
The day before she left for higher ground, she posted a mournful message on Facebook:
“So I’ve been wandering around my house staring forlornly at my books, all of which I will have to abandon to Irma, and trying to decide if there are any that are irreplaceable.”
Immediately, book-loving friends sent suggestions. You could feel their deep empathy at the thought of abandoning a home library to the hurricane.
Drape your bookcases in garbage bags, some suggested. Stuff your books into the dishwasher (or the washing machine), said others. (Think how many washing machines she would need!)
“Trying to decide what to take is like having to choose a favorite child,” wrote another.
In the end, Ogle crammed three books into her dryer (her washer, by then, was full of bottles of wine). Which books? “My signed copies of ‘London Fields’ and ‘Time’s Arrow’ by Martin Amis,” she told me. “And a beat-up first edition of James Crumley’s ‘The Last Good Kiss.’ ”
She brought with her two others: An autographed copy of “A Wrinkle in Time,” and Pete Dexter’s “Train” — not because she loved “Train” (she didn’t, particularly) but because a dear friend who died this year had drawn on the endpapers — a sketch of Ogle and others on a panel at the Miami Book Fair.
The other thousands of books she left, along with her furniture, clothes, dishes, photo albums and CDs, all abandoned to the possibility of a flood.
After Irma passed (more to the west than first was figured), Ogle came home to trees down in her yard and a swimming pool full of suspiciously murky water. (Anything could be in there. Including alligators.)
Her house, though, had not been breached. Her books were safe.
May we all be so lucky, always.
I was one of the Facebook friends who felt waves of empathy at the idea of a book lover leaving her books behind for nature to destroy.
We don’t get hurricanes here, but the world has plenty of disasters: Our pipes could freeze and burst, our fireplace could malfunction and burn, a tornado could smash everything to splinters. There are all kinds of ways my house — and my thousands of books — could be destroyed.
If I had to flee, what books would I take?
I, too, have thousands of books. I, too, have books that I love, for many different reasons. Some because of nostalgia, some because of autographs and personal inscriptions, some because they are wonderful out-of-print books that are hard to find. None is valuable, but all are valued.
To winnow them down, as Ogle did, to two?
Could I do that?
How would you decide?
E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org.