Like many others in my circle, I am in constant conflict with the standards of my culture. Collecting. But then disposing.
This morning, after having coffee with a good friend, I stopped at the library to collect two nonfiction books I’d put on reserve and pick out one or two mysteries to read. This is a pretty normal visit for me—I usually leave with two fiction and two nonfiction, and keep them for the full three weeks, if not one or two more. I like to try different writers, so I’m usually in the New Fiction section, and the same is true for nonfiction. This doesn’t mean I have no books at home to read. Quite the opposite. Every room has books in it. But I’m one of those people who find going to the library a necessary activity, and borrowing books is about more than finding something to read. It’s partly the activity of discovery and partly the pleasure of just being around so many publications.
But I have a lot of books at home. And over the years thousands more have passed through my hands, rested on my shelves, been read and shared and reread, until one day I decided it was time for them to move on. It occurred to me today that I have no idea why a book suddenly comes to the end of its visit. Do I need the space? Of course not. There’s always room for more. Have I changed? Possibly.
One small shelf is dedicated to the books I had as a child and which have survived numerous cleanings-out. Another equally small shelf is dedicated to a few I kept from my teen years, including Conrad Richter’s trilogy and The Gloucester Branch by John Leggett. Another dozen or so are integrated into general fiction and nonfiction, but those that seemed to be seminal in my development as a writer are held discretely apart, and every few years I ponder the prospect of donating them to the library or a thrift shop with a book section. But it never seems to be the right time.
My mother, another reader, kept her Girl Scout’s uniform and another few dresses from her early years. I found them in the back of a closet after she died. My father never kept anything that could be recycled for those of greater need. A businessman since the age of 15 (this was before World War I when such was possible), his wardrobe was spare to say the least. My closet is more like his than my mother’s, and I avoid associating with anyone who might invite me to an event for which I would be expected to wear a fancy dress. You can’t take a book to something like that and read, so why would I go?
What else do I keep? Art. My walls are a record of the eclectic tastes of me, my husband, his family, and mine, not to mention our grandparents and other relatives. Furniture doesn’t interest me, though I concede its usefulness. I’ve disposed of plenty over the years.
I am convinced that any American dropped into any town or city on earth will in a matter of weeks have too many possessions to tolerate and have to set out weeding and recycling. And yet every day, on TV, the radio, in junk mail, we’re urged to buy more. As a good member of the larger community and culture, I comply and buy more books.
That’s 588 words on a topic I haven’t figured out yet. Sometimes as I sit at my desk, fingers poised over the keys, I wonder what I’ll write about. I look across the room, or to my left, at all the books piled up, sometimes neatly arranged, and I wonder about all those words. So many. Surely I have something to say about them. Then, again, maybe not. Except that they’re old friends and I can’t imagine living without them.
3 thoughts on “Books and More”
Good post! I have three bookcases of books and yet I don’t have enough room. I have culled out my books every time we’ve moved. And yet, I am running out of room. I did finally take some of my favorite books to thrift stores or gave them to family members who would read and then pass them on. Mostly what I have anymore are shelves of reference books that I use when writing. Not all on writing but on the Native American tribes I write about and history. But I do agree, I have noticed that as I age, I tend to lean toward a different type of book than I read when I went to the library every week and checked out 4 mystery books to hold me over until I went to town again. That was when I was a young mother and my hubby was trucking.
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I want a t-shirt like yours. Thanks for posting. I always feel a little odd talking about how much I love books and reading. Nice to know I’m not alone.
Susan, you’re my kinda gal. I have many books that are old friends, whose names I can’t always remember. but it doesn’t matter. They have a place in my life. So, it’s a relief to read about someone else like me. And my husband, let me add that. But he tends to go to the library and borrow them. I tend to buy them. Books are my friends. I think I even have a T-shirt that says that. Great post.
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