Tuesday, June 6, 2017

OWNING AND LOVING BOOKS

Owning and Loving Books

I’m the oldest person in my family and as such, have participated in cleaning out my grandmother’s, my parents’ and my in-laws’ houses.  When my father died, a number of years after his and my mother’s house had been emptied and sold, he left a suitcase of clothes, a small bookcase full of books and a bundle of papers neatly organized.  That’s my goal, to own just a few possessions and not be overwhelmed by stuff.  I’m not there yet, but I envision a time when I know where everything is and use everything I own.

That’s my goal, but it should not come as a surprise to fellow writers, book lovers and anyone who knows me that my biggest indulgence is books and it’s books that are overtaking my house. I drop by bookstores wherever I am and rarely leave without buying several.  I read book reviews, get recommendations about new authors from friends, and attend conferences where I listen and meet new authors.  I pick up or order those books too.  When I go to the library I come home with a stack to read.  Unfortunately, I don’t have time to read all of them, I may never, but I anticipate a time when I will and having those books and knowing they’re there to read when I’m ready brings me joy.  I recognize that not everyone feels this way, but for me books are a window into other worlds and an opportunity to meet people who I’d otherwise never know.

But I do have too many books. I live in a big farmhouse in upstate New York where every room except the dining room has several bookcases and each of them is filled to the brim.  I have a small apartment in New York City with two big bookshelves and those and my bedside tables are also overflowing.

In my quest to simplify my life and environment, I’ve started getting rid of some. It has not been easy.  It’s one thing to get rid of books that I didn’t like or duplicates, another to get rid of books that I love.  I started by telling myself that I would only keep the books that I haven’t read or if I had read, intended to read again.  It meant I gave away some of my very favorite books from college and my younger days as well as classics I knew I wouldn’t reread.  Although painful at times, I’ve managed to get rid of a lot, donating them to our local library’s annual book sale or leaving them in the lobby of my apartment building in the city. I plan to keep at it and consider every book that I own to determine what to keep and what can go.  In the course of this divesting, I’ve come face to face with the realization that there is a finite time for everything including reading books.  But it’s also meant I’ve revisited old friends and been reminded of books that I’ve loved and now can share with others.


Believe me, I still have all those bookcases overflowing, but at least now not all of them are double shelved and of course, there will always be room for new books.

11 comments:

  1. Overflowing bookshelves is a problem for most authors. We write books. We love books. Yes, I agree, getting rid of them is hard. I still have my favorite collection but had to get rid of quite a few (Hurricane Katrina did some of the work for me), but now since I read on Kindle my collection has not grown.

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    1. I use my kindle for vacations but still haven't adjusted to using it full time. For one thing, it's harder to go back and find a reference or reread something.

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  2. I could have written this post--it's so familiar. I cleaned out my grandmother's apartment, my grandfather's apartment, my mother's house (she saved everything), and my husband cleaned out his mother's studio apartment. She left almost nothing, having closed down her house several years earlier. I too strive to leave behind only what can be disposed of in a day. But the books . . . . that's another story.

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    1. I'll confess to also having too many clothes, but I'm working on that too!

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  3. Hi Deborah--
    You are not alone. The books in my house seem to proliferate on their own. We've moved three times in the past 6 years and each time I donate boxes and boxes of books. Yet somehow, my shelves are always full. These recent moves have caused me to find things I thought were gone and donate more items that we no longer need. So I am slowly getting there.
    Victoria--

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    1. I do feel better knowing I'm not alone!

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  4. This post hit home on so many levels. First, obviously, too many books. The other thing that stuck out for me was the phrase "use everything I own". That's another worthy goal, also hard to achieve. I don't know how or why I've accumulated so many things.

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  5. I could not agree more! Just this morning my husband and I were discussing how to unload some furniture that we've been holding for nieces and nephews from my father-in-law's house. We've got a barn so the kids figure we've got the space, but my plans for the future don't include stockpiling furniture--or clothes or anything else.

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  6. Love this post, Deb! Recently went to a dine-in theater in Fort Lee that features lobby art made out of books. So there's always that instead of canvas! xo

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    1. The Whitney just had a show featuring used books and we were going to bring some as a contribution--which is what we were supposed to do--but forgot!

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  7. I cannot pass an abandoned bookcase without acquiring it, because I have so many books. My husband is the same. We do without other furniture!

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