I live right across from a used bookstore. It's a dangerous place for a bibliomaniac like myself to be, particularly when it comes to the>"/>
I live right across from a used bookstore. It's a dangerous place for a bibliomaniac like myself to be, particularly when it comes to the 50-cent shelves they sport out front. I was brought up in the tradition of used bookstores, having a mother who's in the business and is constantly trying to hook me on the delights of first editions. (No thanks, Mom; any book I can't read in the bathtub has no place in my household.) But while my numerous bookcases currently groan under the weight of the accumulated bounty from across the street, there are some books I just will not have in my house. I'm not talking here about the sort of books that I have no need of, like guides to archaic computer systems or the letter "N" from a 1963 World Book Encyclopedia. I'm talking about books that if someone were to visit me and ask, "Why do you have a copy of this?," I'd be utterly defenseless. So here, in no particular order, are some of the texts banned from my premises. A firm supporter of the Free Press, I am not encouraging censorship of any sort. But I figure, as someone once said, that any future publishers of these abysmal books might want to send the proofs straight to the pulping plant and cut out the middleman. Harlequin Romances. My two older sisters had an extensive library of these novels, which are apparently the mainstay of teenage girls and old women who wear purple and spit chicken soup. Back in the '60s and '70s, these slim paperbacks had a charming naﶥt鬠featuring titles such as City Nurse, River Nurse, and Country Nurse. My favorite in this series was undoubtedly Circus Nurse, whose cover I can still remember to this day. In the foreground was the face of the sensitive young woman who'd decided to devote her career to helping mend broken bones under the big top. In the background was a clown, but somehow you could tell that under that greasepaint and red nose he was ruggedly handsome. Today's Harlequins have not grown more tasteful, just thicker, with the space presumably taken up by more explicit sex. Inspirational books from the '60s and '70s. These include, but are not limited to: the poems of Rod McKuen; all the novels of Richard Bach, but particularly Jonathan Livingston Seagull; Erich Segal's Love Story; and any book by the man primarily responsible for carrying this sorry tradition into the 1990s, Robert Fulghum. The novels of V.C. Andrews. A friend of mine once opined that V.C. Andrews had ruined the women of our generation. (Dungeons & Dragons is what destroyed the boys.) I scoffed at this notion until I chanced to pick up a copy of one of these popular modern gothic novels, which began with Flowers in the Attic. These books are best described as Nancy Drew and the Mystery of the Marquis De Sade's Dungeon, with incest, sadomasochism, and other savory delights pitched tastefully at the teenage set. It's a little-known fact that the illustrious Ms. Andrews actually died after writing Flowers, and the copious sequels have all used her name merely to sell these books—which, when you think about it, is a scenario straight out of a V.C. Andrews book. Zen and the Art of Anything. I don't know Eastern philosophy from feng shui, but I do respect it enough to believe it's a little too complicated to be explained to me through the workings of a VW engine or the delightful antics of a cartoon character. The Gor novels by John Norman. These excruciatingly bad science fiction/fantasy novels about a hero's adventures on "Counter Earth" are usually graced by a cover featuring a many-thewed barbarian and a naked maiden, which, for once, is an entirely accurate depiction of the book's plotline. With titles such as Tarnsmen of Gor, Priest Kings of Gor, and, my favorite, Slave Girl of Gor (which has been amended to Captive of Gor in recent editions), these are the sort of books that even SF/fantasy geeks, content to be seen reading the worst trash available, hide in the back of their shelves. books I would not want to be caught dead owning. This obviously includes such high-brow "erotica" as AnaﳠNin and other literary heavy-breathers, but also a sizable number of titles offered by one of my favorite publishing houses, Port Townsend's own Loompanics Unlimited. This self-proclaimed "lunatic fringe of the libertarian movement" offers books that specialize in everything from lock-picking to changing your identity, from ninja assassin skills to how to dispose of a body. Even for those of us unlikely to start our own meth labs or hire a hit man, there's a macabre fascination in reading cheerful "how-to" guides on accomplishing these tasks. But the thought that such texts might be shipped to my nearest and dearest after my untimely demise gives me sincere pause before placing my order. In a way, I'm thankful for the authors and publishers who produce these books. Because for a person of such eclectic tastes as myself, it's good to have limits, to know that there are certain books that I not only don't have the time to read but can turn from in revulsion. Otherwise, I could foresee a time when my already overflowing library could force me into becoming the proprietor of my own used bookstore. And that, as I know from my own family, is a terminal path to ruination.