After his aunt Eunice recently died, columnist Danny Heitman inherited many of her books — from Plutarch to coffee table books of her favorite artist, Andrew Wyeth.
But with the proliferation of e-books, Heitman wonders whether books will be passed on from one generation to the next.
In a recent column called “Can you inherit an e-book?,” Heitman writes:
“Passing on your favorite books to your heirs has sentimental value. But how will that work if your library is digital?”
Heitman’s 5 tips for sharing literature between generations
- Get your heirloom books off the shelf and into the life of the household. “I’ve given my late Aunt Eunice’s Andrew Wyeth art books a prominent place on our coffee-table,” Heitman said. “They’re a great conversation piece, and in talking about Eunice’s love of art, I hope to remind my kids of what a special person she was.”
- Share stories about treasured volumes. “We have a German language dictionary on our shelf, although no one in my immediate family speaks German,” said Heitman. “It once belonged to my Aunt Elvira, who taught herself how to read German literature. I use the book as a way of talking about Elvira, so that my son and daughter know about the book’s special place in our family history.”
- Treat your old books as living texts, not antiques. “I still have the copy of ‘Robinson Crusoe’ that I enjoyed as a child,” Heitman said. “I plan to read it aloud with my 12-year-old son. The most important thing about that book isn’t the beautiful binding or the slipcover, but the story inside.”
- Write your name in your books, along with a small notation of when and where you got them. “It might interest my children to know that I got a copy of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories to read on my honeymoon, or that I studied Ralph Waldo Emerson in college,” Heitman said.
- When your kids outgrow favorite books, try to put a few aside when the family weeds its bookshelves. “My teenage daughter might not want her ‘American Girl’ stories right now, for example, but she might treasure them in future years, especially if she has a daughter of her own.”