The Friendship of Books


Last night I began reading the latest copy of American Scholar magazine, and came across a brief essay by one Jethro K. Lieberman, a recently retired professor of law at New York Law School. Since he’s not working, his friends are encouraging him to get rid of his books, but he’s resisting.

“What do you need them for?” they keep asking him.

“Partly for comfort, I suppose,” he writes. “I have been around books nearly three-quarters of a century…They have defined much of my life.”

No kidding. My books mark my passage through an educational process and a life experience that only began with graduation from college. Now, I’m not as resistant to getting rid of books as Professor Lieberman. I got rid of around 500 of my late wife’s since she died (No, that barely scratched the surface of her collection), and culled maybe 150 of mine. I will re-read and re-read again some of these, but I don’t keep them around on the off chance that I’ll begin at Shelf One and re-read through Shelf Fifteen.

As the professor says, they provide comfort. They surround me even as I write this (see photo above), each one whispering of insights gained, lessons learned, faraway places experienced. But why comfort, really? They bring the world to my fingertips. They’re friends. For aren’t we all questions in human form, questions answered by supplementing personal experience with the ideas and experiences of friends far and near? And what better way to go through such a life than surrounded by your closest friends?


Visit my website here. Within it you’ll find more on books and events that matter to me — and possibly to you. And there’s a gridleyfires Facebook page, too, if you can find it.

3 thoughts on “The Friendship of Books

  1. A beautiful sentiment that struck a chord with me. There’s nothing like picking up a book and saying, “Hello, old friend, I’ve missed you.” It’s also thrilling to pick up a new book and say, “Hello, new friend, I can’t wait to get to know you.”

  2. I’m like you, and have numerous books from my youth. But my wife doesn’t like the clutter of books, preferring to trade them in for more books. However, she has a special category of books. ‘Survivor books’, these are the best to her, and are kept on hand to read in case of the apocalypse. Cheers, M

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