Error 60W: Book Badly Sorted | Newberry

Error 60W: Book Badly Sorted

Just as you’re beginning to think you have taught your students well, they come up with something you’ve forgotten to warn them about. I’ve warned you to glance through your books for indiscreet photos, inscriptions you might not want to see turning up on the Internet, and fifty dollar bills Grandma used as bookmarks. These have all been relatively rare of late, especially the fifty dollar bills, so I thought perhaps I had dispensed enough warnings.

Nope. Got a new one for you. When you donate your diet books, you MAY wish to remove the printed prayers you have taped to the covers. I thought the one to St. Jude (Patron Saint of Lost Causes) was particularly poignant. But did you want me to see it?

It reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to bring up. Sometimes donors will try to do us a favor by doing some pre-sorting of the books. There is nothing wrong with this as long as you don’t let your system take precedence over more important things, like making sure the boxes are full. Please don’t decide to put all your tapioca cookbooks together in a box and then tape the box shut with just two books in it. It’s better to send us unsorted books than to send us fifty boxes containing just a hundred books.

And of course, I can’t expect you to be as precise in your sorting as experienced Book fair volunteers. Since it’s nice of you to sort the books at all, I won’t whine (much) if you sort The History of Meatloaf into your history box. We have to take the books out of the box anyway, and if one or two aren’t exactly where our team of experts would put it, this is no big deal.

But sheer ignorance is another matter. If you owned the book, you ought to know a LITTLE about it. Recently someone sent me a box of books marked “Self-Help” (what we call “How To (Head)”). And there, amid the Highly Effective Habits and How To Raise Perfect Children was a copy of Aunt Erma’s Cope Book: How To Get From Monday to Friday in 12 Days.

The author, Erma Bombeck, would be 91 now, but died entirely too early in 1996. She wrote a humorous column and was one of the most popular columnists of her day. I know she has derived a not entirely undeserved reputation as a writer of warm, motivational stuff: her fans loved it when she made them cry, though she always said it took far more skill to make them laugh. But her books simply do not belong in How To (Head). This is the woman who wrote

“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.”

“Housework, if you do it right, will kill you.”

“My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.”

“One thing they never tell you about child raising is that for the rest of your life, at the drop of a hat, you are expected to know your child’s name and how old he or she is.”

“Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.”

“Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

Yes, those are practical and helpful suggestions. This is why they do NOT belong on the same shelf with Think and Grow Rich. Too practical.

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