Monday, May 25, 2009

Acorn Books

When I came up with the idea of National "A Book and a Coffee" Day --

Scratch that.

Let's call it National A Book and a Coffee Day, sans quotations, NABAACD for short. It makes it easier to type.

-- anyway, I imagined people sitting with their coffees and reading books of one of two types: fiction and non-fiction.

I neglected to add another category of book, a type of book which is technically non-fiction but belongs in a category all its own. I call it the acorn book.

An acorn book is a book that you know you will keep for life, and you'll go to it over and over again, especially on Friday and Saturday nights and all other nights when the road ahead is free and you won't wake up the next morning to an ugly-sounding alarm.

My acorn books are worth their weight in gold. They pay for themselves many times over, for a night with acorn books is more fun to me than going to a nightclub or bar or sporting event. Acorn books are essential to my well-being. They take me away from my busywork life and allow me to play -- inside my head.

Very few of the fiction books I've read have become acorns; those are the books I'm most likely to pass on after reading. "Regular" non-fiction books hang around longer, but I'm not likely to reach for my heavy-duty books about history or atheism when I'm in the mood to escape.

An acorn book, to me, usually fits into at least one of these categories:

1. Books which answer odd questions, such as David Feldman's "Imponderables" series, Cecil Adams's "Straight Dope" or the tomes on urban legends by Jan Howard Brunvand.

2. Nostalgia books which take me back to one of the three most important pop cultural decades of the 20th century -- the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

Examples include 60's! by John and Gordon Javna, The Pop Sixties by Andrew J. Edelstein, 1966 by Hal Lifson, Sixties Peopleby Jane and Michael Stern, Retro Hell by the editors of Ben is Dead, and any book by Charles Phoenix. Some of these books are out of print, but well worth the finding.

3. Books with advertisements of the past -- once again, emphasis on the Big Three decades. Taschen Books has a series called "All-American Ads", big fat volumes containing a decade's worth of advertising. You can find out so much about the values of a decade just by looking at its advertising. And you haven't lived until you're startled by the living color of 1950s ads -- when we think of the 50s, we usually think them in black-and-white, don't we?

4. The For Dummies and Idiot's Guide books, each one an inclusive overview of one subject.

Current circumstances have temporarily separated me from my years-in-the-making collection of acorn books. Fortunately, I can still find some in the libraries I go to. I may enjoy a little bit of one before this holiday weekend ends.

Why not collect some acorns of your own?

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