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.