A personal story of books

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

BBM: Here are some books I always make sure to keep on my shelves. If you’ve read them, what do you think? Know any good ones? Let me know what you’re reading. I’m always looking out for a good, new read.

PinoyAkoBlog: Try nyo po “Conjugal Dictatorship” ni Primitivo Mijares. Maganda po ang story, makaka-relate buong pamilya niyo.

This exchange on Facebook was so relevant in many ways to what is happening in today’s world, it inspired me to write this column.

In many ways this exchange is reflection of how these 18 months of the pandemic in many ways has not changed the lifestyles of the rich and the upper middle class. However, I noticed that there are two things that the comfortable class has adapted to suit the present conditions. This is the ubiquitous need for Zoom meetings and the severe limitation on travels.

Before the pandemic, I had never heard of Zoom meetings, and today I have this type of meeting almost every day. This has become part of everyday life and has given birth to a new lifestyle. It has allowed work at home in offices to become an accepted reality. This has in turn given birth to a new lifestyle.

Office or work attire has now drastically changed.I know someone who was meticulously concerned with fashionable attire coming to office before the pandemic. This usually included a suit with a necktie. Even before the pandemic, so called casual attire was already becoming fashionable. This meant necktie. Once the pandemic started, the business attire during Zoom meetings became more and more casual. This friend of mine went from long sleeved shirts to really casual tee-shirts during Zoom meetings even if they were official work meetings.

Personally, I became very interested in the background Zoom participants chose during those meetings. While many did not really seem to care whether the background was a bed or the living room where people walk back and forth, I was fascinated by the number whose background included bookshelves full of presumably books they had read, were reading or intended to read.

I have my own personal collection of books. Although I do not consider myself a book hoarder, I can sympathize with book collectors who would rather discard old clothes or old equipment than discard a book. Old clothing that no longer fits or a broken tennis racket are easy marks for replacements. Books are different. Book collectors always say one never knows when they will be needed again. One of the joys of a book collector is coming across an old book and finding out it is worth reading again.

It reinforces the belief that one never knows when a book might be useful again.

There are people who buy books to impress others. There are those who broadcast publicly their reading list and ask for suggestions. These people are usually those who choose fashion and hobbies to impress. There are a few who are qualified to come out with reading lists, knowing that this will influence reading lists of other people. My influencers when it comes to books are Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Ambeth Ocampo and publications with suggested lists. The best ones are the Economist, Financial Times and New York Times.

There are several books on how to start book collecting. Frankly, I have never met anyone or read about anyone who consciously started book collecting. Most of us at an early age started buying books because we love to read. Then we unconsciously started collecting them instead of discarding them. I started buying books when I was in Grade Six, using the allowance my mother gave. Yes, I had an allowance for buying books at that early age. However, my grandchildren are buying books even at an earlier age. That is the secret of starting their love for books early.

I can only remember around three times in my life when I tried to get rid of books. Every time I tried I remember my Tolkien story. I read my first Tolkien book in the 1960s, long before he became a cult. In the late 60s I made my first attempt to reduce my book collection, principally because I was staying in a small, cramped apartment. I decided that fantasy books did not have a place in my growing library. Years later, I had no evidence that I was reading Tolkien before most people did. Also, I felt the need to read Tolkien again when his novels became movie blockbusters. Now I had to buy them one more time.

The serious book collector sometimes has specific reasons. I usually divide my books into three broad categories. The first category are book of ideas, the second are books of knowledge and the third are books of the imagination.

The first category includes thoughts of great men and topics that changed the world or simply uplifted the human spirit. Then there are books that broadened our understanding of the world and major world events. One example is “History of the World: Map by Map” which shows the development of the prehistorical times to the modern world based on how this was mapped during those periods. Books on geopolitics, philosophy and economics are in this category.

The second category are books of knowledge. These are reference books, history, philosophy and similar areas of knowledge. The third category are books of the imagination which are fiction and creative non-fiction. This includes my collection of science fiction and fantasy books.

Whenever I write about books or a book, I never know when to stop. Let me end by saying this will not be my last article on books.

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September Writing Dates: Sept. 18, 2-3 p.m. Young Writers’ Hangouts with Nikki Alfar; Sept. 25: Memoir writing for adults, 2-3:30 p.m. with Susan Lara. Contact writethingsph@gmail.com. 0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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