We will be moving later this year after 21 years in the same house , 41 years in the same town (Edison , NJ). It is only a short move, to an active adult development 18 miles away , but it means a lot of possessions have to be winnowed out. We simply can’t take them all with us ; some will be given away and others junked. Among the things to be trimmed is my collection of books . I won’t call it my personal library ; that’s too grand a name for what I’ve accumulated.
I am an inveterate reader but I’m not one of those who rushes out and buys a book every time one strikes my fancy. It doesn’t make sense to me to spend $ 25 or more for something that I will read only once . Instead , I borrow books from the public library . In addition to frequenting the Edison library , I have bought a membership at the Woodbridge public library which is larger than ours and has several branches besides. This constitutes most of my reading material though I supplement it with books that I buy on sale at Barnes and Noble , through Amazon and at the library. The only books I pay the full price for are those that I know I will refer to or read over and over . These are generally biographies or books on cooking , spirituality , bridge or travel.
Over the years , the number of books that I own has mounted . When I began the weeding process , I must have had close to a thousand books , a mixture of hard covers, trade paperbacks and paperbacks. I don’t care what they look like or how handsome they are. It’s what is between the covers that matters.
At the start of the process, I thought it would be very difficult but , almost immediately , I realized that there were some books that I hadn’t touched in years , others that I’d never read . One buys books with the idea that one will read them but puts off reading them to read the library books that have to be returned . The same is true of magazines which , if one doesn’t read them immediately , go to the bottom shelf or, worse, the garage.
Just asking myself the question ” Will I ever read this book again ?” was tremendously liberating . All of a sudden , it became easier to part with them. Note that I said “easier”, not “easy”. It’s still a wrench , but it’s doable.
Another thought that helped was that books deserve to be read , not hoarded. Of the 200 or so cookbooks that I had , I have given about half of them to a friend who loves cooking and cookbooks . I know they’ve found a good home and I intend to give away some more. I’ve also donated a lot of books to the library . It has a sale table for such donations and prices them at $ 1 to $ 4 apiece and they are snapped up by booklovers .
Before I’m done , I expect to reduce my book collection to about 350-400 and , from now on , I think I will comb them annually and give away what I know I’ll never read again.
So… what are the books that I will keep?
Most are books that I refer to again and again . In the case of the cookbooks ,there are those that we cook from and others that I just like to read . It’s the second group that will be heavily pruned. There are some books that I will keep for sentimental reasons . The Parent’s Assistant , a book of teaching stories that used to belong to my grandmother and that is almost a hundred years old. A copy of Les Miserables which my wife won as a prize for being the best student when she was in college more than 40 years ago. A book of Grimm’s Fairy tales from my childhood. A travel book ” In Search of England”( ed 1931) by H.V. Morton which my friend Eric gave me just before he passed away. And a few others.
It is not going to be an easy task , getting rid of these books , but at the end of it there will be a sense of accomplishment. And I will feel lighter , much like losing a few pounds after going on a diet. That’s another thing that I have to do ( sigh).