Don’s Book Haul

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When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.


We at The American Catholic like to keep an eye, frequently jaundiced, on popular culture.  One recent development that I enthusiastically endorse are videos posted by individuals on Youtube discussing “book hauls”, books that they have recently purchased.  I find this heartening.  I have always regarded myself as a hopeless book addict, and now I learn that my addiction is socially acceptable, perhaps even cutting edge!  This post will therefore tell you about a book haul I made yesterday, but first a bit of background information.

When I was growing up in Paris, Illinois, my mother and father used to give me and my brother a dollar each as our allowance.  (Considering that between them my parents brought home about a $100.00 a week, I thought the allowance was rather generous. )  My parents expected us to clean the house each day before school, to do the dishes and to run to the grocery store to pick up items during the week.  It was emphasized to us that the allowances were not payment for our work.  We worked at our chores because we were members of the family, and our parents gave us our allowances because we were members of the family.

You could do a lot with a dollar when you were a kid in the sixties.  Comic books cost 12 cents, cokes were a dime, candy could be purchased for a nickel to a dime.  However, I spent a fair part of my money at the local Goodwill.  Paris did not have a bookstore, but the Goodwill had a bookcase with used paperbacks and hardbacks.  The paperbacks were a nickel and the hardbacks were a dime.  New used books came in fairly frequently.  Most Saturday mornings I would go into the Goodwill and search through the books.  It was there I first made the acquaintance of Plato, Aristotle and Aristophanes.  On one memorable day, the divine Dante came my way for the first time with a paperback copy of Purgatorio, and a “new life” began for me.  History books were plentiful, especially on the Civil War and World War II and I gobbled them up.  Thus I began my personal library, and I have some of those books to this day.  And so my shameful addiction devotion to purchasing mass quantities of books as cheaply as I can began.

This week I have been on vacation, and one of the activities my family engages in when we are on vacation is to haunt book sales and used book stores.  Yesterday we went to a booksale in Naperville.  It is a perennial, and I look forward to it each summer.  My family and I picked up 28 books for $67.00  Here are the books I picked out and why I chose them.

1.    Dictionary of American Military Biography-This was the find of the day as far as I was concerned.  I was unaware of the existence of this three volume set.  Here it was waiting for me complete.  (There was another set also available, but I decided not to be piggish and left the other set for some other lucky bibliophile.)  One of the three editors of the set was a legendary Civil War historian, the late T. Harry Williams.  Noted authors contributed bios to the three volumes, including the late Jay Luvaas, another distinguished Civil War historian.  The bios are not squibs but full blown essays, and I will have much reading pleasure making my way through these 1200 pages.

2.    Ben Gurion and the Birth of Israel-Part of the Landmark series put out in the Sixties on historical topics for young readers.  I have been collecting these for years and had never seen this volume before.  The book was published in 1967 and is in mint condition.

3.    Shadow Knights:  The Secret War Against Hitler-Part of a recent series which produces history books that are accurate in a pulp fiction format.  Excellent for history minded teens that need to be convinced that history need not be dull.

4.    Union 1812-A recent book on the War of 1812.  There has been a resurgence of interest lately in the War of 1812, a trend that I welcome.  Our Second War for Independence was far more important to our history than is commonly thought, as many of these recent histories point out.

5.    The Templars-More rubbish has been written about the Templars than any other group from the Middle Ages.  This history is a useful corrective.  It is written by Piers Paul Read, a first rate historian and an orthodox Roman Catholic.

6.    Attila King of the Huns-A good biography of the Scourge of God written in 1994.

7.    Russia and the Golden Horde-Being under the Mongol Yoke for centuries had a profound impact on the Russians, one that was strongly negative I think.

8.    Hardluck Ironclad-Edwin Bearss is a distinguished Civil War historian.  This is one of his earlier works written in 1966 and details the history of the Union gunboat Cairo that was sunk during the Civil War, and his ultimately successful efforts to raise it from the Yazoo River.

9.    Kasserine Pass-The late Martin Blumenson was one of the great historians of World War II.  He began his career as a historical officer attached to the Third and Seventh Armies during the War, collecting the data that would eventually be used to produce the multi-volumed official history of US Army operations in World War II, the “green books” that are available online.  Here he tells the story of the humiliating defeat inflicted by Rommel in North Africa at the battle of Kasserine Pass.  The Army learned a lot of very valuable lessons from that early defeat and Blumenson describes in painful detail all the mistakes that went into making Kasserine Pass a debacle.

10.   Mr. Lincoln Goes to War-This book by William Marvel, who is fairly hostile to Lincoln, details Lincoln’s first year as commander-in-chief.  If you listen very carefully, you might be able to hear the grinding of my teeth as I make my way through this volume.

11.   A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep-The first volume of the autobiography of acclaimed Catholic author Rumer Godden, who, among other novels, wrote In This House of Brede.

12.   Three volumes of The Historian, the quarterly publication of Phi Alpha Theta-The historical articles in The Historian are usually good, but the book reviews are much, much better.

13.   Bug Eyed Monsters-An anthology of BEM stories, with Bill Pronzini and Barry Malzberg as editors.

14.   Origins of the Medieval World–  Yet another thesis as to how antiquity was transformed into the Medieval World.  This one was written by Professor William Carroll Bark when I was one year of age and I will see if I find his explanation any more convincing than the myriad of others that I have read.

15.   Four volumes in the Best of series-Nelson-Doubleday in the Seventies did a series where they published Best of volumes on various science fiction authors.  The hook was the series that they had the stories edited by a big name science fiction author and an introductory essay by the same author.  In the fourvolumes we have the Best of C. M. Kornbluth (Frederick Pohl ed.);  Leigh Bracket (Edmond Hamilton ed.);   L. Sprague DeCamp (Poul Anderson ed.);  and John W. Campbell (Lester Del Rey ed.).

16.   Trips in Time-Nine time travel stories from big name Golden Age science fiction authors edited by Robert Silverberg.

I invite commenters to tell me about your recent bookhauls.  Don’t be ashamed, be proud!  Besides, this is only between me, you and our thousands of readers.  🙂

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  1. Not exactly a “haul,” but good recent finds from the used book stores:

    1. The University Sermons of Ronald Knox. An absolute steal at $8, given that Bookfinder doesn’t have the Sheed version (which is what mine is) at below $68.

    2. Freedom From Fear by David Wallace. It’s a history of the Depression and WW2, part of the Oxford History of the US series. Excellent so far, but try to find the hardcover as it is an unwieldy (if well-bound) paperback.

    3. Hilaire Belloc: Edwardian Radical. Looking very much forward to this after I finish off the other two.

    As an aside, Union 1812 is a good book. Great character and event sketches written in an engaging journalistic style. A little light on details (and maps), though.

  2. Anything by Ronald Knox is a very good find Dale. I assume that people hold tight to his works as I do not find them very abundant at the book sales I haunt.

    Agreed as to Union 1812. Inadequate maps are the bane of most books on military history, sometimes comically so. I was recently reading a fairly good book on the peninsula war marred by the handdrawn maps of the author that combined lack of detail with extreme inaccuracy. Good historical atlases are often a necessary accompaniment to much of my reading.

  3. Great haul, Don. I, too, have been a voracious reader since junior high, picking up steam during my Navy days when long voyages at sea taught me to carry along Hemingway, Steinbeck, Twain and several classics including Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy. I read two books a week, a pace I have kept up until now my 69th year.

    Unfortunately, over the years my book shelves got so crowded I was forced to donate many to local libraries and charities, and sometimes would find them recycled at area flea markets, where, succumbing to a sentimental streak, I would often buy them back.

    As a devotee of pre-and post Victorian-era literature, I zeroed in in a lot of Dickens, Hardy, Eliot, Trollope, Fielding, Thackeray, Gaskell, Wilkie Collins with a few Russian novelists such as Dostoevsky and Tolstoy thrown in. For me, most anything written in antiquity or up to 1900 beats almost anything written afterwards except for the few standouts mentioned above.

    While I prefer fiction, I haven’t ignored the Bible, of course, which I suppose isn’t fiction (I read it cover to cover although it didn’t quite all sink in), and have a good collection of Bishop Sheen, Chesterton, and early Christian writers that I keep on my top shelf, along with most of Taylor Caldwell’s novels (Great Lion of God, Pillar of Iron (the life of Cicero), and Dear and Glorious Physician my three favorites).

    Recent pickups include The Warden and Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope, Edward Abbey’s The Journey Home, No Name by Wilkie Collins, The Brothers Karamazov (new translation) for a re-reard, and The Dictionary of Mis-Information, which explodes dozens of urban legends and other myths such as: The Battle of Bunker Hill was not fought at Bunker Hill, Paul Revere never made it to Concord on his famous midnight ride, and Lincoldn did not write the Gettysburg Address while on a train, nor did he write it on the back of an envelope. Also, Cleopatra was not Egyptian, the guillotine was not French nor named for its inventor, and a compass does not point to either the North geographic pople or the North magnetic pole.

    As an amateur study of history and a lifelong journalist, I believe fact-checking is important and too much written historian is a product of invention and wishful thinking.

    Enjoy your new reads and please share any nuggets you discover with the TAC audience as future grist for debate or discussion.

    Enjoy the rest of your vacation.

  4. The local library had a book sale last weekend as part of the summer reading program kickoff. We bought 20 hardbound children’s books (probably close to $200 worth) for $4.

  5. We bought 20 hardbound children’s books (probably close to $200 worth) for $4.

    AND YOU DIDN’T LET THE REST OF US KNOW?! Seriously–wow. I pulled up something similar–but still not that good–when a local library branch closed four years ago. About 10 or so Madeline and Dr. Seuss books for a song. It was the haul of books for the grownups that had my wife doing the Double Facepalm.

  6. Joe,

    Trollope beat me to it. I was going to write a book and title it, The Warden: The Story of My Wife.

  7. T. Shaw, actually the Warden in Trollope’s book was a nice guy. But I know what you mean, having been “institutionalized” most of my life. Has anyone read “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand? I just ordered it, after recently re-reading her wonderful book about Seabiscuit.

  8. I am in the process of reading Atlas Shrugged and find it wanting. I have affinity for the theory behind the book – producer, second handlers, looter, parasites, etc but find the characters hollow, the plot is weak and the book is very predictable. On well only 900 +/- pages to go.

    Any recommendations for my next summer book?

  9. Dale, they were selling books in almost spotless condition for .25 apiece or 5 for $1. Couldn’t believe some of the books we were able to get for that price.

  10. CatholicLawyer, I read one Ayn Rand book, “The Fountainhead,” and found it boring. Fiction: “Captains and the Kings” by Taylor Caldwell. Non-fiction: “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt,” by Edmund Morris.

  11. My sympathies, CL. Read it a year ago and just recently got over the emotional scarring of trudging through that crap.

    How about some Dostoevsky? Not exactly light, but you can’t go wrong.

  12. Dale, they were selling books in almost spotless condition for .25 apiece or 5 for $1. Couldn’t believe some of the books we were able to get for that price.

    Even better. Yeah, I’d have been a danger to myself and others at that sale. The library closure books were more of a mixed bag–definitely not pristine, but the reinforced library bindings helped. The stuff I got for personal use was much better–a two volume Cambridge medieval history, Gilbert’s Churchill biography (1 volume edition), a two volume compilation of Thomas Aquinas’ “greatest hits,” a set of the Encylopedia Americana from 1996, a multivolume Dictionary of American History, an Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World…and that’s what’s off the top of my head. I was there the day you could fill a paper grocery bag for $2.

    For some reason, Heather has laid down the law and said no more encylopedias. Period. Must be one of her inexplicable tics.

  13. but find the characters hollow, the plot is weak and the book is very predictable. On well only 900 +/- pages to go.

    Even materialist morality plays can be a bit too didactic, it seems.

    I cop to not having read a word of her books–her Objectivist nephews and nieces are a turnoff that way–but I’d heard that she has a certain pulp competence with her prose that helps. I imagine even that talent could be thwarted by 1100 pages.

    How about Belloc’s “The Servile State”? Touches on a some of the same themes, but from a Catholic perspective.

  14. My book haul from the annual public library book sale today included the following:

    — “The Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson, a critically acclaimed tale of Chicago during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. I figure I’ll like this one because I liked Larson’s “Isaac’s Storm”, about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900.

    –“The Chicago Race Riots: July 1919” by Carl Sandburg. Most of you know Sandberg as a poet and Lincoln biographer, but did you also know that he was a journalist who wrote a series of articles on one of the darker moments in the tangled racial history of the Windy City? Neither did I, until I spotted this book.

    — “Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War” by T.J. Stiles. Haven’t gotten too far into it yet, but it’s already clear to me that he and his brother Frank would more accurately be described as (pro-Confederate) terrorists or war criminals than “legendary outlaws.”

  15. Jesse and his brother Frank Elaine were cold blooded killers and thieves who dressed their crimes up in political ideology. My favorite film representation of Jesse James is that of Robert Duvall in the film The Great Northfield Minnesota raid.

  16. “Gilbert’s Churchill biography (1 volume edition),”

    I have been collecting the individual volumes over the years, and still have a ways to go, but I have the first two volumes of Churchill from birth up to his entry into Parliament, the two volumes from 1914-1916 and Churchill’s dismissal as First Lord of the Admiralty after Gallipolia, and the two volumes on Churchill during World War II. Churchill was a very great man and in Sir Martin Gilbert he got a biographer worthy of him.

  17. Don, Churchill was indeed “a very great man” and history has been very kind to him. But his early collusion with the weak Edward VIII, who wanted to cut a deal with Hitler, is well documented. Like him or not, Christopher Hitchens details such events in this piece:

  18. I resonated with this post because some of my best memories from childhood are centered around books. I have a question though: After hauling books around the country with us for years, we’re thinking of moving to eBooks. I feel very ambivalent about this and wondered, as a bibliophile, if you’ve tried it yet? My daughter assures me that I’d love it & they’re just going to dump all my books when I die anyway 🙂 I can see how it’d be fine for novels etc but I can’t see how I’d like that format for anything I’m attached to…

  19. theresarita, My wife bought me a nook last Christmas and I did not like it, wound up getting a refund. I’m an old school, analog type of guy who likes the feel of a real book in my hands. Plus I found the Nook hard to read because of the glare. My 2 cents.

  20. (Guest comment from Don’s wife Cathy:) We’ve downloaded a few free eBooks onto our iPad (Star Wars stories for our autistic son who loves Star Wars), as well as apps for a couple of British magazines (RetroGaming and Dogs Today) which are prohibitively expensive for Yanks like us to subscribe to in their paper versions. I can see where an eBook reader would be a great convenience for college students with loads of bulky textbooks (although you can’t resell e-textbooks at the end of the semester, and one’s choice of eBook reader would depend on the format used at one’s college for their textbooks). I can also see where the compactness of an eBook reader would help someone living in really tight quarters. However, I’m still not quite used to clicking my way through an eBook, and (so far, at least) still prefer actual paper books for most things.

  21. I bought a Kindle five months ago and I love it. One of the best things about it is that I can get books instantly. A cool feature is that at the end of books there are recommendations for similar books, and I’ve actually picked up a few things I would not have read otherwise. I discovered Mary Roberts Rinehart through this feature. There are so many books available for free or for much cheaper than what you’d pay for the hardcover or even a paper back. I’ve downloaded 50+ books and have probably spent less than $25 on them.

    It’s really no different than reading a book in terms of how it looks on the page. It’s not a computer screen, so your eyes don’t glaze over. And as someone who likes to read multiple longish books and who travel frequently, my back appreciates it.

  22. To all my TAC friends. It’s not hard to see why those who fought in WWII are called “the greatest recommendation.”

    Don, perhaps you can piggyback on to this link about the extraordinary heroic life of Louie Zamperini, who became a Christian and forgave his Japanese torturers while he was a POW. Incredibly inspiring story.

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