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CA News 2024


The man from BC wants homes for thousands of books that he will soon no longer be able to read

William said many of the books he owns, from a massive tome on the human cell to a rare first edition on the history of the Korean War, are not available in large print or audiobook form. It’s part of what motivates him to sell so many.

“If that book disappears, there won’t be any other books that I think are even remotely like that book. I don’t want that to go away because I die or go blind,” he said, referring to the book about the Korean War.

“I would like to pass it on to hopefully a thirty to forty year old. And then they’ll keep it for twenty or thirty years and hopefully pass it on to someone else. It is an optimistic view, I understand that.”

William posted about the sale of his collection in a local buy and sell Facebook group, complete with a huge spreadsheet detailing every title for sale, and he said he has already found homes for hundreds of people, most of which go to families who have homeschoolers and college students.

If you search the more than a dozen bookshelves that line most of the walls of his apartment, you might come across a profile of the oil giant ExxonMobil, books on the Cold War, or even a pocket guide to trees.

The fiction options are much sparser, something he usually avoids unless you want to talk about classics like Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’.

“Real life has so many incredible stories and twists that anyone who reads fiction should be satisfied by reading nonfiction and knowing that these things actually happened,” he said.

The 68-year-old said his love for educational reading materials started in college, where he studied both philosophy and English literature before earning a master’s degree in philosophy. “I noticed that I like having them around. “I didn’t refer to them as much as I did when I was taking a course, but I just liked that they were useful,” he said.

His original collection of about 400 books disappeared after William left them with a friend and went on a trip.

He spent much of his life traveling, including eight years in Japan.

He said he used to work as a handyman, in construction and later fixing computers, before his health meant he had to retire.

William prefers smaller bookstores, such as Vancouver-based Duthie Books, which closed its last store in 2010, over larger national chains because he said they offer a more curated selection, chosen by people with a similar love of books.

‘I pick up a book because it seems interesting to me. I’ll leaf through it. I look at the table of contents, or see if the bibliography makes sense to me, and if I think the content is worthwhile, I buy it,” he said.

He says he’s resigned to the fact that he won’t be able to see it again anytime soon, but hopes his books will have found a good home.

‘It’s approaching, I’m falling into it. There’s nothing I can do about that,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2024.

Ashley Joannou, The Canadian Press