The Letter R & the Elephant

The Letter R & the Elephant

When we visited the Biltmore Estate a couple of weeks ago, we spent some time looking around in a gift shop.  That’s where I discovered this little item.


The shop featured a whole display of these letters made from old books.  The gentleman who worked in the shop saw me looking at them and asked how I liked them.  I haltingly told him I was both horrified and intrigued at the same time.

The letters were cut from old Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.  Remember them?  They hold a special place in my childhood memories.  When I visited my grandparents in Florida, I’d always go to my grandmother’s sunroom where she had a whole bookshelf of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.  I’d choose one and be set!

I shared this memory with the gentleman in the shop and explained that THAT was why I was horrified to see these special-to-me books mutilated in such a way.  He said he completely understood but went on to explain that libraries across the country are throwing these books in the trash because they just don’t want/need or have room for them.  What?!?  I guess I can understand that, but it still made me sad.

He went on to suggest that maybe I should purchase one of the book letters BECAUSE they held a special place in my heart.  (Did I mention he was VERY good at his job?!?)

So, I cautiously considered his idea, and my eye was quickly drawn to the letter R, the first letter of my last name.  I picked it up and told the gentleman, “Wow!  This one totally matches the elephant in my living room!”

HA!  Oh, the expression on his face!  When I thought about what I had just said I hastened to explain!  “Not ‘the elephant in the room’!  I really do have an elephant in my living room, and this book really does match it!”

THEN I looked at the spine of the book to see the names of the books it contained, and THIS is what I saw!




Elephants in the Living Room, Bears in the Canoe!!!  Are you kidding me?!?  I quickly showed it to the gentleman, and we both started laughing!  We both knew the book was going home with me!

And it did!  And it DOES match my elephant!




Update here!  9/24/2016






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18 thoughts on “The Letter R & the Elephant

  1. Very cool. I am also horrified by books being cut down. 😔 Why must this be? I’ll adopt ALL of the Reader’so Digest.

    1. I’ve always disliked the thought of reading anything that’s been abridged, but these totally worked back in the day! The guy in the shop was the one who thought to look to see if the title/author information were still intact. He was excited to see that they were (in one location anyway), and I was thankful he thought to look for them!

  2. As a (former) librarian, I want to explain that we have to remove outdated/worn/unused books from our collections to make room for books that are current/in good shape/and will hopefully be read. But it saddens me to withdraw a book I love because it is out of date and worn and loved by no one else. I have a little teapot cut from a book but it doesn’t have the same fabulous story to accompany it as your R and your elephant. I love this post. I love that in life there are no coincidences. I am so glad that Sheila introduced us.

    1. Is this a crazy story or what! It still makes me laugh out loud! I DO totally understand that libraries can’t keep all the books. I’m sure that’s a hard thing to do! Hooray for your teapot book and for meeting you via Sheila!

  3. Oh man, book lover, former library employee here. There is a little store near me that sells similarly cut letters from old books. I haven’t purchased one yet, because they never seem to have the letter I need. On one hand it breaks my heart to see a book sliced & diced, but on the other, I like to think that I’m giving them a new life, rather than being burned or recycled or something. Plus, read a page one day. It’s sort of a funny experiment!

    That book was meant to be yours!

    1. It’s SUCH a dilemma, isn’t it! I struggled mightily with the decision to buy this until the whole story played out, then it was a no brainer! I’ve thought about trying to read the story, but it’s missing really big chunks. Maybe I could write the missing bits and make it my own?!?

  4. Oh, my goodness! That’s wonderful! It doesn’t bother me a bit to see the old RD books being created into art. In fact, I rather love it. There are so, SO many physical books in the world that will never be read (or at least, read again), and I’d so much rather see them being reincarnated into something beautiful than carted off to the landfill. I love words and letters and books as art.

    1. I’m catching up with you, Karla! I do love that they’re re-purposed instead of being thrown away! Plus, I love the colors on the book letter I bought! It really is a piece of art for me!

  5. Yay for giving a cast-off new life! I’m loving this post and all the comments!

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