Ruth Estelle Burnstein

  1965 -
  City of Birth:
New York City

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My Entire Life
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Ruth's Story > Chapters > My Entire Life

"Collecting Books" 


Date Range: 01/01/1965 To 03/10/2009   Comments: 1   Views: 2,377
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I collect books. Not all books, only certain ones. It started years ago when I was a small child. My mother loved reading, but was so exhausted at the end of the day that she didn't have much energy to stay up and read. That is, until she subscribed to the Reader's Digest Condensed Books.

She truly enjoyed having that volume come in the mail every three months or so. Over the years, she was able to discover the likes of Cookson, Michener, and too many others to mention. One of her greatest joys was when one would arrive with a good family story that she would then read to us kids. I guess that's where I got bitten by the bug, for it wasn't long after I learned to read, that I was enjoying them as well.

What my mom started, soon escalated to the ranks of obsession. I would read a condensed version and it would make me go to the library to get the full version. I developed a taste for certain authors and would haunt my local and the school's library for other books written by them. Before I knew it, I had almost as many books as my mother. I would buy them in rummage sales, in second-hand shops, and at household auctions. If there were used books for sale anywhere cheap enough, I'd find them.

But my reading partner was my father. I felt that he wasn't a very good reader so enjoyed me reading to him. We'd read for hours and hours on end.

I had my favorites of course. Classic sci-fi were right at the top of the list. I next began to form an addiction for historical novels and those from the Victorian era. Oh, the wonderful books I found to immerse myself in. It was the perfect hideaway for a shy, plain, overweight girl with few friends. As with all things in life, change comes eventually. I grew up, and when I left home to get married, it was under less than friendly terms with my family.

At least it was with my mother. When I finally reconciled with her enough to come home for a visit, I could find no trace of all the boxes of books that I hadn't been able to carry away with me. I was too devastated to even ask what had happened to them. It wasn't until just about fifteen years ago, that I found out that my dad had kept a few of my favorites in his collection when the rest had been given to charity.

You see, that was when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. His was too advanced, and he knew it would only be a matter of time. He called me, asking that I come for the weekend and said he had something important for me. Well, after breaking the bad news, he went to his room for a few minutes, coming back with a short stack of books that I immediately recognized. It was part of my sci-fi collection.

As he handed them back to me, he explained that he had kept these as a keepsake. Whenever he was missing his reading partner, he would take them out and reread one of them. He said it was the next best thing to having me there. He also told me in front of the rest of the family that he was giving me his collection, lock, stock, and barrel. I didn't know what to say, but hugged him long and hard.

Since his passing, I've kept getting the condensed books in order to keep his collection current, and added quite a few of my own. Bookshelves abound in my home, leaving no room for curio cabinets or knick knacks. My kids like to kid me about not letting any of them leave the house. I guess that kind of makes me a collector too, doesn't it?

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Member Since
Jan 2009
Sam Henderson said:
posted on Jul 21, 2009
Love of reading

I'm so glad they instilled the love of reading to you. Some of the kids I know so proudly that they don't read, and that's such a shame. I too have a wall of books. I don't really lend them out. Even though I probably won't ever re-read them, just knowing they're there is some small comfort.