Last weekend I attended the Montgomery County Teen Book Festival, speed-walking in about ten minutes after the general session started, about as punctual as usual. As I arrived, the young adult authors on the panel were answering a question what one book they'd grab on the way out the door if their house were on fire. (This is assuming family members and pets are safe). Quite a variety of answers:
Lois Lowry talked about her copy of The Shining, a first edition autographed by Stephen King. Um, yes, I'd grab that too. Use it as a downpayment on a new house.
I think Thomas Sniegoski's answer was most like mine--he's pretty sure he'd burn up with all the books, because they're all over his house and it would be impossible to save just one. Plus, his house is highly flammable.
Anna Godbersen and Jeff Stone both picked classic novels. Anna's choice was Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, and Jeff would take Moby Dick, which he reads at least once a year. I get that we have our favorite classics, but unless it's signed by Herman Melville (or even Stephen King) or it stopped a bullet for me, I'm not grabbing Moby Dick in a fire. There must be a used bookstore on the corner that has a copy.
Justina Chen said she'd likely be standing there throwing things into the fire, like all of her journals to make sure no one would get a hold of them if she perished in the flames. I'm sure a lot of us would be doing the same thing, and throwing in a few first drafts of novels too. But assuming she had time then to escape, she'd grab the book her kids made for her. Good choice! Irreplaceable, and something that can make you happy when you're crying about your house burning to the ground.
I started wondering what book I'd snag from the burning bookshelf. I do have a shelf of signed books (not The Shining, but still), so I'd probably scoop them all up as I stop, drop, and roll out the door, although I suppose that's cheating to pick several. But I do have a book of my grandmother's poetry. She was a writer almost all of her life, and at age 99 she could still recite a poem she wrote 50 years ago. My aunt put a lot of Grandma's poetry together in a book (actually it's a two-volume set now), along with pictures of her throughout her life. So that would have to be the book I'd grab--not nearly as replaceable as everything else. If we're talking about a published book on the shelf, I'd have a harder time narrowing it down to one.
So what book would you take with you when escaping a fire? Not photo albums--those are safe in the front yard with the family. This is a different question than those like, "If you could have one book with you on a desert island...," because it's more about sentimental value, or even monetary value, rather than the book you enjoy reading over and over again.
Would yours be one signed by a favorite author, a classic novel you've reread many times, or something of sentimental value? Maybe you've written in the margins of it, or you remember it as the first book you really loved, or it's one that someone you loved gave you.
I know, we'd all grab tote bags and empty the bookshelves into them, but no cheating--you have to pick just one!