It was time. Actually, past time. For years, I’ve looked at whole shelves — some ten feet long — stuffed with books I haven’t read for 25 years and probably will never read again. Meanwhile, orphan stacks of books grow on various ledges around the house, books I’m actively engaged with at the time (sort of, sometimes, in my dreams), that should be on the shelves holding the old residents.
When I couldn’t stop fantasizing about getting rid of books, I went to the basement, where the old books live, and did a long and merciless weeding process. Now many boxes hold many books I will not likely re-read because:
- The print is too small (must have shrunk over the years);
- Reading that book once was splendid but really enough (sorry, D.H. Lawrence and Henry James);
- I never really liked that book to begin with (don’t mean to offend Hemingway fans out there, but, aside from my vast admiration for his sentence structure, I’m not exactly a fan);
- If I want to re-read that book, I’ll probably forget I already own it and buy another copy (e.g. why I have three copies of The Color Purple); and
- If I forget what happens in a book, an increasingly likely reality, I’ll also forget where I put my copy of that book.
It took the length of a movie we rented — How Green Was My Valley — which was as dark, antiquated and strangely moving as some of the books now in boxes (Goodbye, Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner). In the meantime, like was gathered with like (Jewish books, feminist scholarship, Buddhist how-to books, fairy tale collections from around the world) and placed on the increasingly large gaps opening on various shelves. Pounds of outgoing books — weighing as much as two adults altogether — started packing their bags.
Tomorrow, I will make many trips to the cars, cajoling my strong 18-year-old son to help, and then donate the rattier paperbacks around town after seeing which of the more crisp books the used bookstore might take. In any case, you could easily end up with all the novels of Ann Pachett in your hands, various fitness guides, or even Isabel Allende’s Paula (such a good book!). I wish these sailing ships well, and for them to land on shore of readers who will love them as much as I once did.