Books of Bondage: Why I Broke Up With Some of My Books Today

When my husband and I moved into our second home after being married for two years, we had bookshelves that looked kind of like this:

 

The shelves really didn’t have anything to do with our decision to buy the house. No really… they didn’t….

I went wild at the freedom those bookshelves gave me. Used book sales were my favorite events. One library in our area has really great sales four times a year. It didn’t take long to fill our shelves. I’m sure we looked like a very intellectual couple. As long as you ignored that section of John Grisham and Janet Oke. 

I reveled in our house of many shelves. But then, our thoughts on our material possessions changed. We realized we were paying for a lifestyle we didn’t even want. So we downsized our house, got rid of a lot of stuff, and are now pursuing a simpler lifestyle. It all is much less noble than it sounds to write it out, but to explain the why and wherefore of it all would not have anything to do with the rest of this post. The point is: we left our house with the beautiful bookshelves. But we didn’t leave the books! Oh no, I packed every single one of those volumes, determination blazing in my soul, and put them in the storage unit that housed most of our belongings during our time in house limbo. After several weeks of searching and crazy turns of events, we were richly blessed with a great house…but no built in bookshelves. And so I unpacked my favorite books and our children’s books, but the other books stayed in the attic. Until today. 

I didn’t get new bookshelves today. I got brave. I decided to take down those boxes of books, look into them objectively, and ask these questions:

  • Will I ever read this book again?
  • Will any of my friends want to borrow it?
  • Will I want my children to read it one day?
  • How hard is it to get it from the library or an online site?

And then, I purged. It was a lot less painful than I thought it would be, because I realized I had been hanging onto many books merely because they made me feel smarter. I will never re-read Nikolai Gogol or Niall Ferguson’s Empire or The Boisterous Sea of Liberty. Those books made me feel like quite the history scholar and uniquely well-read woman (yes, technically, I had to read them for college classes, but hey, I didn’t sell them back!). But I don’t even like them! I don’t have to have a copy of Mark Twain’s short stories. I don’t enjoy reading The Awakening. These are books I’ve kept because I thought they made up a part of my character. Yes, they still do. I’ve read them, I’ve studied them, I wrote papers on them, I know them. Or once knew them. But I realize now that I don’t have to possess these books anymore. If I want to read them again, I can get them again. I don’t need them on my shelves to point out how I had a great college education. I mean, the Riverside Shakespeare on my living room shelf is pretentious enough. At the end of the day, I have two boxes of books in the trunk of my car, headed for new homes. 

Don’t panic for me! There are many books in my house still. They are good friends. And I dream of someday having a library of wonderful literature for my family and friends to enjoy. Today, though, what I need is space. My books weren’t giving me enough space. We had to break it off…this metaphor is way too sappy. Anyway, books don’t belong in attics, and readers shouldn’t choose books for their shelves based on the image they will give. That’s my epiphany of the day. Tomorrow I will (with a tiny measure of regret) take those two boxes of books to the new 2nd & Charles in my town and take whatever piddly price they offer me for the books I’ve been hoarding for so long. And I vow on this blog I will walk out without any new books!

Okay, I will walk out with no more than one or two new books! 

Any recommendations on what I should get? Just kidding…

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2 thoughts on “Books of Bondage: Why I Broke Up With Some of My Books Today

  1. Jeanne Higgins says:

    We are going through the same process over here as we move to a new home and for Rick, a new office, with less book shelves. He has done a lot of purging, but I have a feeling there is more to come!

  2. Good for you! I only have 4 bookshelves in my house (two are in the basement and one of those hold the children’s books). They are all double stacked, but I am not buying more. The library is my happy place, and while I wish I did own a copy of my more fav books (The Book Thief is one) I will have to do the same as you-purge, before I can fir any more.

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