Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mountains of Dusty Books

I love books.  Old books, new books, books with hard covers, books bound with paper.  I went to school and got a degree in English Literature and afterwards began a long and varied obsession with accumulating books.  

Did I say "accumulating"?  Perhaps "amassing" would be a better word.  I gathered copies of books around me like Fahrenheit 451 may actually come to pass and the only thing standing between me and a  life without Pride and Prejudice would be the six copies I had stashed in the living room cupboard.  There wasn't a library sale I missed from the Twin Cities to Duluth.  I have two large bookshelves in my living room full up of books--Did I just hear you say you wanted to read Tess of the D'Urbervilles?  You can borrow my copy!-- plus half a cupboard and please don't even ask to see my bedroom!  I loved to read and spent many hours with a variety of authors.

And then I had babies.

It's amazing how children will change your life.  I never imagined myself as a non-reader, which functionally so many people are, and I'm not.  It's just that the amount and subject of my materials has changed so dramatically.  I don't have the time or patience for the classics anymore.  I don't enjoy them in the same way and I'm starting to question whether or not I ever did.  Boswell's Life of Johnson?  Really?  I read it, but I don't remember enjoying it.  I am certainly not going to read it again.  Charles Dickens?  There are people who read through his books like wildfire, but I have never been one of them.  I've never met a man so intent on beating his audience over the head with a Moral Lesson and until I learn to enjoy a good thrashing I am sure I won't like him, either.

So, today has been something of a culmination of what has been happening to me in the four and a half years since I had my first baby.  Peter and I went through our entire house and collected seven dusty boxes of books to take over to the Library.  I am still Keeper of Volumes--you can tell because he didn't have to rent a small truck to get my collection out of the house--but the number has been dramatically reduced.  And you know what?  It feels good!  I had three or four old dictionaries, one of which belonged to my grandpa.  I kept his and sent off the three that didn't.  I said good-bye to Dickens, to DeFoe, to Plato and Locke.  I was able to acknowledge that I still wanted to read A Letter Concerning Toleration VERY much, but that perhaps this isn't the year.  When it is, I will buy it new.  I'll enjoy it more than the 1958 edition I had, anyway.  It feels so good to let go of who I was and turn to accept the person I am today.  I am looking forward to seeing what I will be reading when the kids are a little older.

So, in the meantime, you'll find me chasing the kids and reading books when I can.  But they won't likely be about systems of government or the ways of human error.  Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters can stay--even Anne-- but today's reading is more likely to be about knitting, cooking, and suspicious looking deaths.


Anonymous said...

My husband and I just did something similar. We were both bookhounds before we met, and since we bought our house nearly five years ago, the vast majority of our books remained in the "we'll deal with them later" boxes in the basement. So this spring we did some serious decluttering, keeping only items we knew we'd want to read again, sentimental favorites, and valuable (collection-quality) editions. The rest went to our local library. It's quite exhilarating to be free of them!

Knittymama said...

Us too!! I was a history major and I collected so many books. Lately I've been turning back to the library as we just don't have room (or cash) for any more and we've been slowly weeding out the ones that I know I'll never read again or just won't bother with.