The Sophie’s Choice of Book Posts: The Books are on Fire

Books burn! I weep!

It’s a horrible thought – books burning. Luckily we don’t live in communist China and except for the great Disco Demolition Night of 1979 we don’t have to worry too much about people lighting the objects we love on fire on purpose.

So this got me thinking…what books would I save if it came down to it? Imagine your house is on fire and you can pause time to save five books before fleeing the burning abode as coolly as Kurt Russell in Backdraft.


Eeeee, FIRE!

Think of the books you couldn’t part with.

Luckily, most books are replaceable except for the ones that hold a soft spot in your dreary, sentimental soul.

And because I’m a big fan and get hot for odd numbers, let’s put a cap on this to FIVE books. Yes, you heard me. Just five.


My choices to save.


Book porn right here.


All mean something to me. All have an explanation.


1. The Very Scary Almanac by Eric Elfman


I remember the moment I got this book with perfect clarity. My dad and I were in a drugstore, it was nearing Halloween and he said I could get a book. Dad knew me well.

The Very Scary Almanac was on a rack as well as another Halloween-themed recipe book. And so I was torn between how to make grapes feel like moist eyeballs or learning about The Bermuda Triangle.

I chose wisely.

11 year-old Jules approves.

I have no doubt this book set me on my path of freakiness, gave me my current love of the odd and paranormal. To this day, I’m still amazed and fascinated by the weird.

Subjects dad did not frown upon.

Every October I still read it.

I’d save this baby from a burning building any day.

With tips like this how could you not?


2. The Outsiders by SE Hinton.


Let’s do this shit for Johnny.

This book made me a writer. I read this in seventh grade I think and instantly I knew I wanted to write. It’s stuck with me. This copy is my original. Weathered and battered, it’s been mine for a long, long time.

I’ll never loan it out to anyone.

I read this book to my little sister when we lived in our grandmother’s basement (yes, make a story out of that true fact) in North Dakota. Every night I’d read her a chapter, curled up in bed together, and giggling over the dreamy boys on the cover.

nothing says teenage angst like jacket vests and cuffed sleeves

It’s still my favorite book. I’ll probably be buried with it.

clearly vandalizing books is my forte


3. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I realize this is an odd choice since this book is pretty replaceable. However, I got this book on one of my best trips ever. New Orleans. Read the post here.

I loved that trip. I did everything on my own and still get warm fuzzies thinking about it. I visited about three old bookstores and decided to pick up this Gaiman book. It’s the first one I ever read of his and I started reading it in NOLA.

And it smells oh so good. Dear god, I love the smell of books.

Even now – just yesterday in fact – I picked it off the shelf and breathed in its musty scent. Yes, I’m that creeper. Invite me over to your house and you’ll find me sniffing your books.

It smells like my trip. It smells like memories.

It’s $5 to smell me. $20 for the fancy stuff.


4. McCall’s Guide to Teenage Beauty by Betsy Keifer

Everything I am not.

This was my mother’s book. I found it in the attic of my grandmother’s house. Originally published in 1959, the edition I have is from 1965. It sold for 50 cents. 50 CENTS.

Is your blood boiling yet?

The McCall’s Guide to Teenage Beauty is a delightful flashback to vintage nostalgia, but it also is a true look at what women’s roles were back then. Sure, we hear the stories, but seeing it in print and literally asking aloud, “Is this for real-real?” is like a punch to the ovaries.

I remember reading it as a 10 or 12-year-old and being unsure as what to make of the beauty and exercise tips. Happily, I didn’t put too much stock in it. Deep down I think I knew it was amusing.


I mean, sure, it did help in some aspects back when I was a kid. Nope, I don’t have scoliosis, yep, my face is definitely oval-shaped, meaning “any coiffure is becoming”.

Now looking through it I realize I break all the rules. I could never be a 50s housewife.

-I do not wear clothes like a model

-I slouch like a mofo

-Elbows on the table is common practice

-Showers are an afterthought

Ahem…so getting off the topic of my slovenliness… it’s just a book I’m proud to have. And again with the whole sentimental factor. Plus it’s awesome vintageness and with pictures like this you can’t get much better than that.



5. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

The big ‘R’ makes you know it’s serious.

Dear god, I love this book.

Again, this is another of my mother’s book. Found in the attic. As I type this I realize I really need to write a story on all my attic treasures…

This is the 1968 edition, selling for 95 cents.

The spine is ripped and broken but it’s still staying together somehow. I’ve only loaned it out once (to my sister who I threatened repeatedly to get it back) and it smells so lovely.

I love this book because of Levin’s writing style. Sparse, to-the-point, I’m never bored with the description. He paints a clear picture and it makes me want to be there. Well, not frolicking with devil-worshippers but you get the idea.

no really, frolic.


I also love it because it was my mother’s and I’ve had it for a long, long time.

Those are my answers to the five books I’d save from a fire. Sorry to the remaining bound wonders in my bookcase but these are my beauties.


What are yours? Do tell.

Henry demands it.


No Comments
  • Reply


    August 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    I remember the 3 of us consulting that almanac to find out how to kill zombies. I miss grandma’s basement! So many good memories.

    • Reply


      August 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm

      We haven’t really come that far from our ‘planning-to-kill-zombies’ phase, have we?

  • Reply


    August 12, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Okay. It’s official. I love you. I am going to copycat you now.

    p.s. rock the fuck on…I know you will and you don’t need my permission and shit…just wanted to throw that out there

  • Reply

    Irreplaceable Five « roxixmas

    August 12, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    […] (inspired by JULES JUST WRITE) […]

  • Reply

    Michael Gillan Maxwell

    August 13, 2012 at 1:06 am

    Thought provoking and funny Jules! Damn ~ you ask the hard questions…..and now…I must ponder! A bunch of us went thru something like this a while back with our Desert Island list of our top 5 albums (do they still call them that anywhere?) of ALL time. Needless to say there’s no end to that conversation. Good question about the books though. As I enter the full bloom of my geezerhood, it might be interesting to revisit some of the books I thought were the be all and end all when I was a starry eyed hopeless romantic. Hell ~ I might actually even understand some of them now!

  • Reply

    Marsha Stewart

    August 15, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Good thing I got rid of all of the titillating ‘Mandingo’ novels. Your a bit mad Julia, are you sure you never read any of my Mad Magazines??

  • Reply


    August 15, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    I would trust Henry to make all decisons pertaining to which books to save. He seems a reptuable cat of good character.

  • Reply

    This Book Deserves a Face Palm. | Jules Just Write

    June 2, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    […] I first read “Rosemary’s Baby” when I was maybe fifteen and the writing hooked me. I found it in the attic, buried in a box of my mother’s high school things. […]

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