I went through an impromptu spring cleaning a few weekends ago, and fell into that same quandary I always do with my books.
What do you do with your books after you read them? And I’m not talking about the cream of the crop favorite books that you absolutely have to own or else. I’m talking about books like ‘Smilla’s Sense of Snow”, by Peter Hoeg.
I read that book a few years ago, and I enjoyed it; it was a good read and memorable, even though it fell into the category of ‘books that are murder mysteries that I never really get a handle on what is happening in them even though I enjoy them’. So, there was that. Would I read it again? Probably not. Would I lend it to someone and say, ‘You have to read this’ ? Again, probably not. But still! It was a good book! Maybe someday I’ll see the movie and it will make me want to read the book again! Who knows?
In this fashion, ‘Smilla’s Sense of Snow’ has followed me to three different apartments in two different states. Every time I try to clear through my bookshelves and get rid of some books, I pick it up, the above monologue goes through my head, and I end up keeping it. This is the case for many other books I own. The problem might be that I can’t decide what kind of book owner I want to be. There are two warring sides to me on this issue: On the one hand, I yearn to be Spartan and keep only what I need. I want uncluttered spaces and minimalism. On the other hand, it’s kind of nice to have a big ol’ bookshelf full of books in your house. Books are important to me, and I like the idea of having a respectable collection of them. Maybe I won’t need to re-read ‘Into Thin Air’ by Jon Krakauer a third time, but it’s nice to know that it’s there if I want to.
I have books my parents gave me, books that were gifts from dear friends, books I bought for college courses that I loved and courses that I hated. Even if I never read them again, they remind me of people and places and times in my life. It’s hard to get rid of them.
Also, I’ve realized that weighing the possibility that I will read a certain book again, leads me down a morbid path. How much time do I really have left in my life? Enough to read ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ yet again? It’s one of my favorite books, but there are so many OTHER great books I have yet to read! Do I dare take the time to read that one over again? But if I don’t, how sad is it to think that I’ll never read it again? See, there’s no reason to think like that. It doesn’t lead anywhere good.
So at this point, even though it makes moving even less fun (although moving is terrible no matter what) I think I’ll stick to keeping my books, if that’s what my inner monologue encourages. There’s something very comforting about searching through a big friendly shelf of familiar books.