Gifting a book to a good home

What do you do when it’s time to downsize your personal library? I suppose you can sell some of the books on eBay or Amazon, but most  buyers at these outlets won’t pay more than a few pennies over shipping costs. That’s certainly not the fate most of us want for the older editions of niche books and classics.

Click on the graphic to see a newer edition on Amazon
Click on the graphic to see a newer edition on Amazon

A Facebook friend of mine used her intuition plus a healthy dose of reality based on the subjects I’ve discussed on my blogs about the research I’d been doing for two folk magic novels. She sent me a message telling me she was thinning out her library and thought she had a book that needed to be in mine. Would I take it in. It was an adoption, I thought even though I’d have to wait and see what it was.

Of course, when it comes to adopting pets, we seldom say we’ll adopt a pet without knowing what it is; nobody wants to be contemplating a regal cat or a playful puppy and have a tiger snake or an alligator show up. But, knowing S___, I didn’t think I’d end up with anything like those living books in the Harry Potter series that have teeth and are always angry when the wrong person tries to read them.

Her intuition was spot on. She sent me the 1938 original edition of Zora Neale Hurston’s Tell My Horse, an anthropological study of Voodoo in Haiti and Jamaica blurbed by Carl Sandburg, no less, with words like “bold,” “beautiful,” “priceless,” and “unforgettable.” The New York Times said of it, “Strikingly dramatic, yet simple and unrestrained…an unusual and intensely interesting book richly packed with strange information.”

I’ve read a lot of Hurston’s work from her novel Their Eyes We Watching God to her news coverage of the unfairly conducted 1952 Florida murder trial of Ruby McCollum to stories and books like Mules and Men collected while she was gathering hoodoo and other Florida folklore for the Works Progress Administration’s (1935-1943) Federal Writers Project. But Tell My Horse wasn’t in my library until yesterday afternoon at 4 p.m. when the mail arrived.

I know little about Voodoo (a religion), having mostly researched hoodoo (folk magic) except when I’ve stumbled across accounts out of New Orleans about notables such as Marie Laveau. So, I will enjoy reading this study about a related subject from one of my favorite authors; I’ll treasure the book and my highly intuitive Facebook friend who gifted it to me. I don’t know how long she had the book. When I told her Tell My Horse arrived, she said, “I knew you’d give it a good home. It languished with a friend of mine who was an antiquarian bookseller, until I found it in a dusty corner. I came to her through the experimental film of Maya Daren who was allowed to film and participate in voodoo rituals as Hurston did in her medium. It is a great relief to find her a place to thrive.”

S___, the book won’t languish in a dusty corner and, if you happen to stumble across this blog, I love you for your spirit of adventure, your kindness and your wonderful gift.

Now I know a good way to send my old books off into the world before they take over the house (my wife says they already have). Like Tell My Horse, many of my books are older than I am and will need loving homes rather than moldy basements and dusty attics.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of two, Florida folk magic novels “Conjure Woman’s Cat” and “Eulalie and Washerwoman.”

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