Quinda’s Books

Several years ago I ended up with several boxes of some of my mother’s books that had been stored away after she died in 1974. Some moisture had seeped in during their long hibernation, so some were stained and warped at the edges.  

How they got there is anybody’s guess. They were quickly stashed away and as quickly forgotten, I imagine, when my father sold his house. None of us could have done the easy thing, and thrown them away. Because they were books. And because they had belonged to someone we loved.   

It’s an assemblage of titles that might have been found in any bookshop in America from the 1930s until the early 1970s.  Very few are important volumes that bibliophiles will appreciate being saved.

Yet, to me, they are priceless.  

 I remember pulling them down one by one from our bookshelves when I was a child, probably wondering what my mother’s fascination with them could have been. A few of the oldest, predating me by a decade and more, were wartime issues so the paper was inferior and by the time I came along to inspect them, the pages had mellowed into a brittle, pie crust brown. Some of the back covers bore, along with a photograph of the author, an encouragement to buy war bonds.

Once they were out of their boxes and in my house, I set myself the goal of reading them, because I had a notion that some of my mother might be hidden away in the little cache of mostly forgotten literature. Maybe in how their stories might have reflected or modified or encouraged her own.  After all, many of the books that I’ve read have done those things for me – tough moral stances have sometimes been made easier because I’d met Atticus Finch, and I find myself craving too many rich pasta dishes when reading a whodunit set in Venice by Donna Leon – so surely it was so for her.         

As I’ve been reading them, I’ve tried to not see the stories, dated and sometimes predictable, through the eyes of an author and English teacher.  Instead, I’ve imagined my mother reading them first when their pages were crisp and their covers sharp.

Books and reading were lifelines in her journey, and knowing when she would have read these (I’m pretty certain she read every book that came to her as soon as she received it) and what was happening in her life hopefully indicates which ones gave her pleasure, reassurance and maybe hope in times good and bad.  She had favorite authors – five are by A. J. Cronin – and certain rules (not one page in any volume is dogeared to mark her place; usually she used a piece of a tissue for that).  Other than a few memoirs, anthologies and some cookbooks (she read them cover to cover, wanting history and culture as much as recipes), these are all works of fiction.

These are the titles, listed chronologically in order of their publication:

1929    O. E. Rolvaag:  Giants in the Earth

1935    The Great American Parade (anthology of stories and poems)

1936    William Sydney Porter:  The Complete Works of O. Henry

1937    W. Somerset Maugham:  Cosmopolitans (short stories)

1941    Phyllis Bottome:  London Pride

1942    James Hilton:  Random Harvest

1943    Betty Smith:   A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

1943    Roundup Time: A Collection of Southwestern Writing (anthology)

1944    Ben Ames Williams:  Leave Her to Heaven

1944    I. V. Morris:  Liberty Street

1945   James Hilton:  So Well Remembered

1945   Robert Dean Frisbie:  Amaru: A Romance of the South Seas

1945    Robert Gibbings:  Lovely is the Lee

1945    Thomas B. Costain: The Black Rose

1945    Zelda Popkin:   The Journey Home

1945    Sinclair Lewis:  Cass Timberlane

1945    Bill Maudlin:  Up Front (memoir)

1945    Jonathan M. Wainwright: General Wainwright’s Story (memoir)

1946    W. Somerset Maugham: Then and Now

1946    Thomas Surge and E. W. Starling   Starling of the White House (memoir)

1947    Sinclair Lewis:  Kingsblood Royal

1947    John Steinbeck: The Wayward Bus

1947    Samuel Shellabarger:  Prince of Foxes

1948    W. Somerset Maugham:  Catalina

1948    A. J. Cronin:  Shannon’s Way

1940    Esther Warner:  New Song in as Strange Land (memoir)

1949    Sinclair Lewis:  The God-Seeker

1951    James Hilton:  Morning Journey

1950    A. J. Cronin:  Beyond This Place      

1950    W. Somerset Maugham: The Maugham Reader (anthology)

1953    Ruth Moore:  A Fair Wind Home

1954    Frank Yerby:  Benton’s Row

1958    Ruth Hutchison:   The Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook

1958    A. J. Cronin:  The Northern Light

1961    Gertrude Booth:   Kings in the Kitchen: Favorite Recipes of Famous Men (cookbook)

1961    Paula Peck:  Art of Good Cooking (cookbook)

1964    A. J. Cronin:  A Song of Sixpence

1964    Tom Lea:  The Hands of Cantu

1966    Joseph Wechsberg: Blue Trout and Black Truffles: Peregrinations of an Epicure

1969    A. J. Cronin:  A Pocketful of Rye

1969   Fulton Miller: German Cookbook for Texans *I bought this in an Army PX and sent it to her from Bavaria in 1972

1974    Lee Foster (ed.): The New York Times Correspondent’s Choice (cookbook) * this one arrived too late for her to read it; she died in early January of 1974

One thought on “Quinda’s Books

  1. I remember reading Frank Yerby’s “The Saracen Blade” when I was a teenager. I found it on a shelf and I believe it was either my dad’s or his mother’s. It was such a good book and I wish I knew what happened to it. I’d read it again.


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