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.
October 23, 2009 at 1:07 am
I know exactly how you feel!! Unfortunately, Sebastian isn’t the great lover of books that we are, so he usually gives my piles of novels the ax each time we move. In each apartment I get rid of more and more books. However, I still have a good number that inspire that same monologue and that inevitably end up back on the shelf. You know what we need? I big home with a library clad in dark wood, shelves so high we need a ladder on a track. And maybe some scotch in a decanter on the bar in the corner….
October 23, 2009 at 1:44 am
My 78 year old patient was complaining of the same thing today. But she told me she found the solution in the Kindle.
October 23, 2009 at 10:37 pm
My recent solution is a plan to move across the continent by plane. Then you pick up each book and say “how much would I pay to ship you?”
October 29, 2009 at 3:01 am
My issue is that I keep having to move many books because I HAVEN’T read them yet. So those follow me on top of the books that I like (the books that I love almost inevitably are gone because I told someone that just HAD to read it and let them borrow it and, well, bye-bye awesome book) and quite a few theory books from college that I keep around to impress visitors. I had a professor one time say that he would go down to the book buy-back tents on campus at the end of every semester and just silently judge the people who sold back their novels because he doesn’t understand why anyone would ever get rid of great books. That had a fairly profound impact on me.
But it’s not like I have that many clothes or tchotchkes or anything like that, so I can keep my books if they make up over 50% of what I need to take with me on any given move. Think about the people who collect Precious Moments, or stamps, or spoons, and you’ll feel better about yourself.
October 30, 2009 at 3:15 am
I know how you feel. Here was my brilliant solution: Save every book you have ever owned whether you liked it, loved it, hated it, don’t remember it, or have yet to read it. Then move with it four times. Now move again, for the fifth time, somewhere very far away and have all your boxes, includung said books, f freight shipped from from your parents’ garage to you via some random trucking company. Schlep boxes up to to your second floor 550 square foot apartment. Realize you have no space for half the books. Make the hard decisions. Give most away. Never look back. It’s like ripping off a band-aid. I sympathize with your decision not to go this route.