Evan X. Merz

musician/technologist/human being

Goodbye to Zadie Smith, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Aubrey Beardsley

I am definitely a book hoarder. I love my books. I love the smell of the paper. I love the sound the spine makes when you open it for the first time. I love the way a bookmark looks when it's peering out from the middle of the book, keeping your spot for you.

It's hard for me to let go of books, but since I live in a relatively small house in California, I have to make a habit of getting rid of books every few months. I usually take them down to a Little Free Library, or to Goodwill.

But I've decided to start blogging about the books I donate, so that I can remember them on the internet, even if they aren't on my bookshelf.

Here are the books I'm saying goodbye to today.

Six books I'm donating today.

Out of Africa by Isak Dineson

I love the way Isak Dineson writes. Her words ache with empathy and bittersweet longing for things she can never possess. Of course, she's writing about her time as a colonizer, and that throws a disagreeable shade over her work. But her memoir of colonial Africa in the early 20th century is still marvelous and fascinating.

I pulled this copy out of a Little Free Library in my neighborhood, and it wasn't in very good condition when I found it. The cover is battered, and some pages are falling out. Still, I think it will serve a few more readers, so I am taking it back to where I found it.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

This book made me cry at the end. I loved it. My wife gave it to me after she finished it.

I love media that is set during the AIDS crisis. Maybe it's a little dark to admit that, but I just love the gay art scene of the 1980s in New York and London. As pointed out by Rent, there is a romantic pathos about making art and dying for love, and this book captures it so well.

The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith

The Autograph Man is not my favorite book by Zadie Smith, but nothing she writes is bad. I like the way she gives us these windows into subcultures that feel so authentic. In this case, it's a window into the life a Jewish man who buys and sells autographs.

My wife read this book, then passed it on to me.

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

I was gifted this book for Christmas a few years ago. Team of Rivals is truly one of the great books about Abraham Lincoln and The Civil War, and there are thousands upon thousands of books on those topics.

Still, I think this book could have been 150 pages shorter and achieved the same thing. I'm not sure that hundreds of pages about the early lives of Lincoln's cabinet members really informs the story about their decisions during our greatest national crisis. It took me nearly two months to get through this book, but I'd still recommend it to history buffs.

The Early Work of Aubrey Beardsley

I went through a brief love affair with Aubrey Beardsley's work, and it still amazes me to see illustrations produced in the late 19th century that were so influential on later art. Many of Beardsley's illustrations look like they would be more at home in the psychedelic posters of the 1960s San Francisco rock scene. I would love to be able to pick up one of his original prints, but the market is saturated with reproductions and fakes.

I picked this book up for two dollars at an estate sale. I hope it introduces someone else to the brief career of a very influential illustrator.

Criminal Volume 1 by Ed Brubaker

Most comicbook readers will recognize this one. I've enjoyed a lot of Brubaker's work, but this one just didn't pull me in, despite being heavily recommended.

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Evan X. Merz

Evan X. Merz holds degrees in computer science and music from The University of Rochester, Northern Illinois University, and University of California at Santa Cruz. He is a programmer, musician, and author of Empress blog software. He makes his online home at evanxmerz.com.