The Gospel Truth

Empty Shelves | April 12, 2011

There is nothing more sad than walking into a home or a chain book store and seeing a stack of empty shelves.

The current decline of the mom and pop book store is disheartening.

One need only see the movie, with Meg Ryan, You Got Mail, which is a remake of the The Little Shop Around the Corner to feel the sadness that permeates the closing of a woman’s neighborhood bookstore.

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A sad sight

Losing a familiar bookstore is like losing a good friend.

Now the same malady is infecting even the big chains, like Borders, which declared bankruptcy this year and Barnes and Noble, which looms large, yet even B&N seems to be struggling.

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Forced to declare bankruptcy

Is it that people don’t read books anymore or is it that they just don’t buy them anymore.

Part of the recent is the switch from print information, both for news and recreation and the loss of an inquiring literate population which seems to have lost its curiosity about the meaning of life.

The digital age has also impacted traditional book reading.  I saw  my first Kindle on an airplane and from where I was sitting it looked like a large video game.

Then there is also something called the Nook that sounds more fitting for the first meal of the day. And then my daughter got an her first I-Pad.

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A video game for books

These were all new ways to read a book…virtually any book.

Now maybe I will be the last hold-out.  I never want to use these alternate reading methods.

I still read newspapers–home delivered.  Three in the morning  and later I but the New York Times but only for the pictures.

I want to be the Last Bibliophile who has the last book in the world.  I like to buy my books and take them home with me.  I like the interchange of having a real person wait on me.

I love the feel, the smell and the physical presence of a book.

Like so many people who wish they owned their own restaurant or race horse, owning a bookstore or even working in one has always been on my dream list.

Being surrounded by stack of books entrances me like a beautiful sunset.

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An enchantment

It is like having the world’s wisdom at your fingertips…if you know where to look.

Sometimes I just stand in the middle of a line of book shelves and drink in the ideas and facts emanating from the colorful array of new titles.

I do have to confess that I never go into a library any more because the Internet is easier and while time may be money to some, to me it allows me to have more time for my personal reading.

Reading is a mental form of exercise that may help me fight the ravages of age, which often starts in the brain.

I Read about a 100 pages a day–sometimes more.

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A dual work out

I have been logging each book I finish with the date finished , the author, title and number of pages.

A couple of years ago, I read 128 books, my best ever.  Most years I can count on reading anywhere from 105-120.

Some times I can read as many as 250 pages while other days, reading 50 can be a chore.

When we go on vacation, my wife shops and I am content to sit and read one of my traveling books.

I judge the quality of a store by the comfort of its seats for waiting men.

I have sat on cold marble, dirty stairs and sometimes stood in a corner, just to get my fix.

I read all kinds of books–many of them novels.

James Paterson tells a good story.  I buy his books not for their literary content but for their swift-moving pace.

Jonathan Kellerman and Michael Connolly are much better writers.

The later developed a character over the course of several books.

A detective, named Harry Bosch–short for Hieronymus Bosch, the 15th century Dutch painter, appeared in several of his books.

Connolly named Harry after this Dutch artist

Harry was a tunnel rat in Vietnam and was getting a little too old to feature.

He now writes about Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer.

I read a lot of non-fiction as well…especially current events, memoirs and history.

Of the later I read everything about the ideas that have launched our own culture, especially from the French Revolution, the Civil War and the early 20th century.

Right now I am reading John Thorn’s Baseball in the Garden of Eden, Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth II, and David Goldfield’s civil war epic,  America Aflame.

I was inspired to do much of this reading by a history professor at St. Louis University, named Ed Maguire.

Dr. Maguire had a terrible stutter that affected his presentation but that didn’t stop him from teaching or passing on the secret of all education: Read books.  And I have ever since.

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Sage advice

I read exactly four books during my first eight years of primary school.  And my mother had to finish two of them for me.

I remember trying to read Black Beauty and could never get past the fourth chapter.

I did start reading just before graduation–Xavier H. S. had given us a book list and I read 11 books.

But in high school I did only the required amount of reading.

What changed my life was the advice from the recruiter from Boston College who told me that with a Verbal score of 417 (before it was inflated 20 years later) I could not get into his school.

And BC was where I wanted to go at that time.

So I got serious.  Like Cool Hand Luke said, I can eat 50 eggs.

Well I digested 50 books and the next time I took the SAT, my verbal had modestly increased to a 509.  Strangely my math score went from a 522 to 647.

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But could he read 50 books?

Forget BC, I could now go to Holy Cross.

By the way my verbal on the Grad Record Exam right after college was a 650, which placed me in the 92 percentile.

I can use words like sesquipedalian and polymath with comfort.

Books have paved the way for my life.

Since then I have always liked to have books around me.

They are my friends, my companions for a lonely night and my teachers.

I now have about 3000 books in my home–my wife calls them a nuisance.  I call them my library.

My book habit is getting expensive.  I collect discount coupons that I hate to waste.I have to buy at least one a day.  Sometimes, I load up with 5-6 books.

Right now I have more books than I will ever be able to read.  I am more like a collector or even a horder.

But for now my motto is so many books…so little time.

My wife says that some day she is going to bury me and my books in an 80′ hole.

I have become akin to the Fireman in Ray Bradbury’s classic,  Fahrenheit 451–the degree of temperature when paper burns–who did not put fires out but burned books–all books.  This lead to a cult that memorized the great books and passed them on.

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The end of books?

But during one such job he became curious and kept one of the books, which he then read.  Like me, he became hooked on books and started stashing them all over the house.

I do that now.  He put them in a fake TV, overhead lights, closets, under floor boards and any where that would store his treasure.

Books are essential for man’s right to know I fear that someday, despite all the electronic book-reading devices, people will be so dulled by their education, they will use these devices, merely for the distracting contentment of bread and circuses.

And what of the bookstores?  They will be nothing empty shelves which is like a world without lovea sad testament to the self-destruction of our civilization.

 

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8 Comments »

  1. A great piece, Pop. One of my favorites. I like this essay so much that I will share it with my Reading 100 class at SFCC. I will let you know what they think of it. Well done.

    Comment by Matt — April 14, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

    • Be sure to include my address. Thanks. BB

      PS I just got a rejection frm Jim R.–former editor of the Review—n ow a librarian. Bb

      Comment by bbprof — April 14, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

  2. Your a man of the Universe Bill….I have not read anyone who can compare with your publications, especially the Mindszenty Report.
    My Mon was an avid reader and took us to the Newburgh Library at least 2 times a week. Howard Pease was a author that keep me reading his books on sea adventures.
    I read at least 2 books a week in addition to 6 monthly technical, religions and securlar publications.
    I rotate books from the Bellefountaine Treasure House store every week. I find a bottomless well of books covering every subject available, written by popular politicians,authors,technicians,etc.
    My children where raised on the National Geographic and Florissant Library books in addition to their formal education.
    I also read labels on ever thing I purchase
    Religious reading is a must. It is the foundation of civilization.
    I keep on the cutting edge of Electronic and Mechanical, etc., technical magazines covering everything from Nuclear,defense,aircraft,naval,etc., subjects.
    I still accept quality assurance assignments for defense and civilian manufacturing programs.

    Comment by Jim — April 14, 2011 @ 5:11 pm

  3. Jim:

    You mean I am from outer-space? BB

    Comment by bbprof — April 14, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

  4. Nice job, Professor Borst!

    Your love affair with books, reading, thought, and reflection will never be reduced to digital sterility. Keep it up, along with that “logging itself” sensory memory of all the places you’ve rested or attempted to settle your physical torso on the way to the mental world that every new book unfolds for us in one form or another.

    Comment by Bill McCurdy — April 14, 2011 @ 9:50 pm

    • Bill:

      Great comment. Thanks for sharing BB

      Comment by bbprof — April 15, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

  5. BB, You get a gold star. Your reading has caused you to travel around the world and into the world . I used to read every spare minute but now with my handicapped husband needing care, I read sparingly. At present it is REVOLUTION COUNTER REVOLUTION. Pax.

    Comment by Mary B — April 15, 2011 @ 12:07 am

  6. Bill
    Ed Maguire was my father-in-law, and indeed an inspiration. As you know he was a Browns fan and I enjoyed seeing him in his Brown’s T-shirt. I share your passion for books.

    Comment by Donna M — January 24, 2012 @ 6:23 pm


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About author

After graduating from Holy Cross, Bill Borst earned an MA in Asian History from St. John's University and a Ph.D in American History from St. Louis University. (1972) A former New Yorker, he taught for many years in the St. Louis area, while also hosting a weekly radio show on WGNU from 1984-2006. He currently is a regular substitute for conservative Phyllis Schlafly on KSIV radio. (1320) He is the author of two books on social history, "Liberalism: Fatal Consequences," and "The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy." He just retired as the Features editor of the Mindszenty Foundation Monthly Report. In his 11 years from 2003-2013 he wrote nearly 130 essays on Catholic culture and world affairs. Many in St. Louis also know him as the "Baseball Professor," because of a course that he offered at Maryville College from 1973-74. It was arguably the first fully-accredited baseball history course in the Midwest.The author of several short books on the old St. Louis Browns, he started the St. Louis Browns Historical Society in 1984. In 2009 his first two plays were produced on the local stage. "The Last Memory of an Ol' Brownie Fan," ran six performances at the Sound Stage in Crestwood and "A Perfect Choice" ran for two performances at the Rigali Center Theater in Shrewsberry. His third play, "A Moment of Grace," ran six performances at DeSmet High School in January of 2011with First Run Theater in January of 2011. He is currently working on a 4th play, "A Family Way," which is a comedy about a happy dysfunctional family. He can reached at bbprof@sbcglobal.net

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