There comes a time when one must admit that one does not need to own every book in the whole world. When the books are shoved sideways on top of paperbacks that are already two rows deep, well, it is time for some serious soul searching. And a thinning of the library.
First to go are the books where somehow I have an ARC, a hardback and then a paperback. Hardback stays, the other two can fly. Then there are the books I bought, tried to read and could not finish. Sorry, guys, you did not make the cut. Then the books I’ve read but cannot imagine ever wanting to read again. Time to let you fly off and find a more appreciative home.
As I am doing this, I am fighting guilt. “I paid money for this book. I should read it.” or “This book got great reviews. Everyone talks about it to this day. I should make myself read it.” Then I open the book, start in on the first paragraph, and within a page or two, I suddenly realize that, “No, my first impression was correct. This book is not talking to me.”
Old textbooks? How did these get saved all these years? Spanish workbooks, health textbooks, basic geometry. Off they go. Then I start encountering the ‘required reading’ books. How many copies of Three Theban Plays does any home library need? How many paperback copies of MacBeth, highlighted and Post-it-Noted to within an inch of its binding? Poor things, off you go to find a home with some high school student. I nearly saved the copy of The Great Gatsby just for the seven sentence outline that one of my offspring wrote in the front. Hm. They did not appear to enjoy this story much!
There are other kinds of chance encounters on the book shelves. Books I don’t recall buying, but suddenly find intriguing. And other books, books I can’t imagine that I ever paid money for that go into the toss box without another thought. Let them go off to the library used book shelf and with their sale bring some badly needed money into the library.
A shameful secret? There are three books in the box that I actually read and enjoyed. And then real life encounters with the authors cooled my appreciation for their work. Very petty, I know. But if there are three books that I am parting with on those terms, there are several dozen books I am keeping, in spite of feeling luke warm or even negative about the creators. There is some sort of a moral there, that if you write a good enough book, I’ll keep liking your story even if you personally make a horrifying impression on me!
This is also an opportunity to reorder my library. To put all the Scarborough in one place, to get all the deLint together, to find all the various volumes of Joe Lansdale and gather them into one glittering hoard of gems. Time to clear some space to put the Evanovich in numerical order.
My daughter wandered through as I was sorting the Lansdale. “Hey, that’s my copy!”
I take insufferable joy in opening it and pointing out that it’s signed to ME! Ha-ha!
I do not point out to her that the one that is three volumes over is signed to her!!! Later. She will look for it and find it. But for now, I will hoard it for her.
So, despite the fact that I will part with four cardboard boxes of books today, at the end of the day I will actually feel richer for rediscovered treasures, for moments spent dusting off old friends and for those lost moments when I actually dared to open an old favorite and once more fall into the depths of a story.
Oh, my books. Somehow, I don’t think seeing a file title on a hand-held screen could ever be quite the same as sorting through my own library.