There’s just something that bothers book lovers about the idea of destroying a book, even when there’s probably no good reason not to do it. We all know that libraries have to cull their collections in order to make best use of their usually limited shelf space and we all understand that certain books do become useless because of technological changes and the like. But, admit it. Doesn’t it still kind of bother you to think of trash bins filled with still-readable books?
According to this article from The Mercury News, it bothers Robert Wright a whole lot. But unlike most of us, Mr. Wright does something about it.
With the zeal of a soul-saver, Robert Wright has delved into garbage bins, filled up his minivan and made space in his San Jose basement, rescuing books once destined for oblivion.
This week, Wright, 57, rumpled in sweatpants and a T-shirt, rushed to Morrill Middle School after the Berryessa school board had declared 686 library books surplus. The teacher browsed through volumes laid out on tables. He filled boxes until the custodian turned out the lights and chased him out. He returned Friday morning, his triumph mixed with amazement and distress.
A few years ago he rescued a hardback copy of “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” and read it to his son, then 11. They ended up going to the bookstore to buy the rest of the classic “Narnia” series.
“I know that an instruction book on how to use the slide rule would be obsolete, but novels by C.S. Lewis?” he asked.
Wright acknowledged that middle-school kids won’t pick up a book with an unattractive or worn cover, an odd title or outdated contents. But he finds even some of those useful. “Homemaking for Teenagers,” with instructions to girls on how to make a husband happy, for instance, is a historical artifact and can spark discussions about stereotypes, he said.
Many of the books he salvages end up in his English classroom at Morrill. When a student neglects to bring something for free reading time, Wright may hand him a rescued book like Paul Zindel’s “The Pigman,” about two high school kids who befriend a lonely man.
“After I force them to read the first five pages, they’re hooked. I have to tear it from their hands,” Wright said.
Robert Wright is doing his bit to extend the lives of books on the brink of destruction, once again proving that good books don’t die – they are murdered.