Around the Island

Richard’s Almanac: Off the shelf

I’ve always liked having books around.

Filled bookcases have been part of the furniture everywhere I’ve lived. And I enjoyed having the books as much as reading them. Sometimes I’d acquire a book to read at some later date. It would go on the shelf ready to be picked up and read when the time was right.

I mentioned in this column after the COVID-19 pandemic began and everything began to close, how I missed going to the library — a place I’d visit a couple of times a week.

But I said that this would be a good time to read the books on my shelves that I had not read. And that’s what I have been doing. Some of the titles have been very good reads, and I don’t know how I acquired some of them.

I suppose that it was at a book sale here and there. From the book sections of the many Dollar Stores that I love to visit. (Aren’t Dollar Stores great?)

So what I’ve been doing is picking an unfamiliar title from my mostly cluttered shelves and giving it a try. I didn’t realize how many pieces of good fiction and non-fiction I’ve amassed over the years. Or at least since 1988.

That’s the year that my house and its contents were destroyed by a gas explosion and fire. My extensive book collection went up in smoke. So what I have now is from 1989 on.

I just finished reading “Traveler” by Ron McLarty. It was written in 2007 and is a combination murder mystery and coming of age novel that goes from early 1960’s East Providence to present day New York and New England. This was a one-sitting book that I thoroughly enjoyed, but have no recollection of how I came to own it.

The plot centers on a 12-year-old girl who is shot in the shoulder while playing in the snow. The shooter is never found. The protagonist is her friend. The doctors are unable to remove the .22 caliber bullet because of its location near an artery. They agree it’s best to leave it alone.

At age 55 she dies because the bullet had “traveled.” Her friend goes to East Providence from New York in an attempt to unravel the mystery. I could not put it down.

Then there’s the novel “Super” by newsman Jim Lehrer from 2010 set in 1956 on the Super Chief train going from Chicago to Los Angeles. The trip is filled with mystery and suspense with passengers like former President Harry Truman and the king of Hollywood, Clark Gable.

I really like to travel long distances by train in sleeper cars so this book was right on target for me.

Another book I read was “The Weight of Water” by Anita Shreve, a semi historical novel set on the Isles of Shoals in the waters off New Hampshire. It’s set in the late 19th century and  deals with the murders of two Norwegian immigrant women.

Some of the non-fiction works included “Truman” by David McCullough and “Patton” by Martin Blumenson. And by far one of the most intriguing biographies I read was “Down at the End of Lonely Street” by Peter Harry Brown and Pat H. Broeske. It chronicles the life of Elvis from his birth in Tupelo to his death in his bathroom in Graceland.

I could go on, but my point is that I eventually get to read the books I acquire. I know that these days books are looked upon as dust collectors and some people toss them because “everything’s available online anyway.” I just don’t feel that way and hope that many individuals share my love of holding the expectation of adventure and romance and mystery between my two hands.

And if they’ve been on the shelf for a long time, just dust them off.