Saturday, March 16, 2013

Little Blue Books

Louis L'Amour remembers . . .

"Riding a freight train out of El Paso, I had my first contact with the Little Blue Books. Another hobo was reading one, and when he finished he gave it to me. 

"The Little Blue Books were a godsend to wandering men and no doubt to many others. Published in Girard, Kansas, by Haldeman-Julius, they were slightly larger than a playing card and had sky-blue paper covers with heavy black print titles. I believe there were something more than three thousand titles in all and they were sold on newsstands for 5 or 10 cents each. Often in the years following, I carried ten or fifteen of them in my pockets, reading when I could. 

"Among the books available were the plays of Shakespeare, collections of short stories by De Maupassant, Poe, Jack London, Gogol, Gorky, Kipling, Gautier, Henry James, and Balzac. There were collections of essays by Voltaire, Emerson, and Charles Lamb, among others. 

"There were books on the history of music and architecture, painting, the principles of electricity; and, generally speaking, the books offered a wide range of literature and ideas. I do not recall exactly, but I believe the first Blue Book given me on that freight train was Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."


  1. Oooo. Can men be rational? Can they?

  2. I see what you did there. Pierce's "Idiot America" has a nice long riff on the Gut.

  3. Yes, working stiffs were different when they carried little blue books in their pockets instead of having talk radio on 24/7. My brother, a machinist, says everywhere he's ever worked hate radio is blaring. Sigh.

  4. Your brother should hire out with a freight railroad—30/60 retirement plan, stimulating conversation in the crew shanty, & leisurely 3:00 a.m. walks in the rain . . .