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Carol Hoenig Headshot

The Value of Books

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After several years of being shifted here and there to less than worthy spaces, my autographed books are finally where they belong. Just yesterday I eagerly transferred them, well over 300 volumes in various sizes, shapes and sentiment, from their temporary shelves to the refinished bookcase in my newly refurbished family room. It is two years ago, pretty much to the day, from when I bought back the house my ex and I had to sell as part of our divorce agreement several years earlier. I wrote about the chain of events that brought me back home here and I still have to pinch myself to think I could get back what a bad marriage initially forfeited. Still, it has taken me this long to give my books a place befitting for the likes of editions autographed by presidents, celebrities and Pulitzer-prize winning writers.

While negotiating to buy back my house, I was heartbroken to discover that the people who'd bought it from us had ripped out the bookcase that had been built specifically to hold my cherished copies. Their reason? "We don't really read." Stunned by the comment, I held my breath as I made my way to the family room where there was another bookcase. Or at least there had been when we sold the couple the house. How relieved I was to see it managed to survive the non-readers' demolition but stressed how it needed to remain. And remain it did. However, while I was having other work done on the house, the family room was in limbo until just a week or so ago. I am thrilled to have it back in shape so that I have a dedicated place for those unintentionally disregarded works.

We don't really read? I can't imagine. No matter where I lived, most every room in my house has a place for books, but I wanted the bookcase that spans from floor to ceiling solely for my signed copies, which I've been collecting for years. It helped that I had been the national event specialist for Borders Books for many of those years and had the opportunity to work with quite a number of authors. I was reminded of many of those people yesterday as I shelved in alphabetical order my bound keepsakes. As I slipped each volume in its place, I recalled those authors I'd had a chance to get to know over the years. Some were nothing short of rude, but for the most part there were those who brought me smiles; some even brought me friendship that lasts to this day. However, what I noticed more than anything was those who had died between the time that I'd first moved from my house to when I returned. There is my copy of A Reporter's Life signed by Walter Cronkite and Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. Who would have thought that just a few years after Olivia Goldsmith autographed her novel, The Bestseller, she'd die much too young thanks to botched plastic surgery, and when The Best of Everything author Rona Jaffe most graciously agreed to blurb my novel she was quietly dying of cancer?

Not one, but there are two signed books by Dominick Dunne, who would chat with me when he strolled into the store to see what was selling. Charlton Heston, Winston S. Churchill (the grandson), Peter Jennings, Alan King, Wendy Wasserstein, are all no longer here and all who share the same book case with Don Knotts and Captain Kangaroo. Yet, there is one author whose untimely demise still saddens me. 32 year-old Amanda Davis died in a small plane crash while just beginning her book tour for Wonder When You'll Miss Me. Tucked within the pages of the galley that Amanda sent to me was a note card thanking me for being so kind to her when she did an event for her first book, Circling the Drain. I value that note card and think it tragic that she never lived to see her writing career flourish to its full potential.

And, toward the end of my book case, is the slim, tattered volume of Slaughterhouse Five. I'd actually brought it to work with me the day Kurt Vonnegut was to come to my office and sign stock of his latest book. While I held each copy opened for his signature, we talked about a number of topics. When he finished, I asked if he'd mind signing my personal copy of his classic. To this day, I like to occasionally open it and read his personalized message to me.

Some people collect figurines. Some people have a few scattered books here and there. Me, I take enjoyment in my books -- autographed or not. Yet, I'm happy to report it's the ones that are signed that have been given a place of honor -- once again.