Books: To Have and To Hold

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I have a little thing for books. I love them. I love the way they look. I love the way they smell. I love the way they sound when their pages are turned. One of my favorite places on campus in college was the library. No, not the three floors of computers and study rooms, but the top two unfrequented floors with shelf after shelf of books. The shelves were tall, the rooms were long, and if I didn’t love being in that quiet room with that booky smell so much, I might have felt claustrophobic.

The thing is, I don’t just like books at libraries. I like books at my house. I don’t just like to read books. I like to have the book around so I can think about the first time I read that book and what it was like. I like to have hardback books to look at on a shelf. I also like to have paperbacks that I can write in and toss in my purse and not worry about because I think paperbacks know that that’s what they’re for and they like that. I like to save books that I don’t plan on reading again until I have kids…maybe even 10-year-old-kids.

This summer, I’ve spent a lot of time getting rid of things. A few weeks ago, I dragged all the crap out of Dexter’s office (also known as the room where we shut our eyes and throw crap in that we don’t know what to do with) and into our bedroom. Keriann was about to move out of her apartment and needed a place to stay during IC’s notoriously inconvenient “turnover” of renters, and I told her she could set up camp on the floor of our office. That was a pretty gutsy promise coming from a woman who hadn’t seen the floor of her office since February. I wish I would have taken a “before” picture, because it would have made you “clean people” shudder.

I got rid of a lot of things. I took 8 boxes of clothes and assorted junk to a consignment shop and Goodwill in the course of three days. I even sold things on Craigslist, sinc e Dave Ramsey recommends selling all your stuff to get out of debt. When I  initially removed all the buried treasures from the office, I divided them into piles on one end of our bedroom. I went through each pile, deciding what to keep, what to give away, what to sell, and what to throw away. I helped Dexter sort through college art projects. We tossed some things, photographed some things, and kept a few artifacts.  I dug through art supplies and purged what I had been saving for my job as an elementary school teacher and for the knitting projects I would do someday. I organized office supplies and added to my growing pile of things to take to my classroom.

Then, there were the books. I saved them for last because I was hoping that all the other stuff I got rid of would make room for them. But I knew that at least some of them had to go. I plopped down on the office floor with Dexter, who caught a bad case of my book-disease that interacted dangerously with his disorganized-packrat-disease. We divided the books into three piles. One pile was for books we could easily part with. Another pile was for books that we thought we might want to read again someday but that would be really easy to find at a library. The third pile was for the if-I-don’t-get-to-read-this-again-I’m-going-to-freak-out books. That pile was probably a little bit bigger for me than for normal people. We threw away a few books that were in bad condition, consigned a few more, and put the others up on paperbackswap.com. (Yes, I know that’s a place where I’ll get more books, but believe me, I’ll only get books I really need.)

You thought it was over. But it wasn’t. I still had a few boxes of books I unearthed from my parents’ house that I had been saving for my future students and children. I kept most of my picture books, because I love them, and not just the stories, but those specific copies. (New publications of Bread and Jam for Frances will not cut it for my babies.) I only have one copy-paper-sized box of these, which I think is pretty acceptable for a bibliophile. But, I was really torn when making decisions about the “chapter books.” I’ll take some to school and they’ll be great for my students. Others, like my Boxcar Children and Babysitter’s Club collections, are too juvenile for my students. I’m almost positive that my children will want to read those books, but the thing is, it’s going to be a long time before I have a child old enough to read a chapter book. I also wonder if keeping these books around will teach my children to love perishable things. Although I would love for my kids to cherish their mother’s tattered copy of the first Boxcar Children book, would I love a little more for them to grow up loving reading, loving the library, and loving people and experiences more than things? (And maybe they’d never even want to read it because without the cover it wouldn’t look cool.)

I still may keep them because children are expensive and books that you already have are free. Older foster kids might read them before biological babies would grow up and read them. And they’d just about fit in one copy-paper-sized box…I think. Before writing this post I’d decided to get rid of them, almost. I think I have swayed myself the other way.

How do you decide what to keep and what to get rid of?

9 thoughts on “Books: To Have and To Hold

  1. I got rid of my secular chapter books with the thought that they will ALWAYS be available at the library. The books I hoard and collect are of a religious nature that are not at the library and even if they are now might not be ten years from now. It is tough to whittle them down though, I feel your pain!

    • Good thought! I’m not a huge fan of Christian fiction, but we definitely kept almost all of our nonfiction books.

  2. I too share your love for books. I use the library, but I just really like owning the books I read. I can’t explain why, but I’ve always been that way. I always had a hard time selling my textbooks back at the end of the semester, even if it was for a class I didn’t really even enjoy. Mike and I have probably 2 boxes of books right now that won’t fit on our shelves, but I’m probably going to buy a new shelf rather than get rid of books. It’s my dream to have a library wall of books some day in our house.

    • I’m glad I’m not alone. Dexter and I also have a book wall (or maybe even a spare room that we refer to as “the library”). I think I get some sort of vague comfort from knowing my books are right there to read again. Even if those books doen’t make the list until after the 800 books I want to read for the first time. I suppose since I like to look at them, they count as free home decor.

      • That’s true. Books are a major part of my home decor. Here’s some more comfort-I came across this a few weeks ago: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100520213116.htm
        So really, you’re just making sure your future kids will be well educated! Plus, I figure if I end up home schooling which we currently plan to do, it will really pay off that we have so many books at home to use already!

  3. It’s funny for me to read this because just in this week I would guess that we’ve added at least 50 books to our house! (I did exchange like 5 at the used book store yesterday, but we bought two there and then two more at another book store – net loss of only 1.)

    The fast majority of the new books in the house have come from our curriculum for the year, but I looked through books at two thrift stores this week which is not a usual thing for me. The paperbacks were .05! Of course we need a copy of Jane Eyre in good condition for only .05…don’t we?

    My opinion, if you have room for them, keep them even if you don’t have room on a shelf. I didn’t bring my childhood books with me, so I don’t necessarily have those to compare to. I do see my children going through many many books during a week. It’s fun to see what books are falling out of the bed when we try to make it. (Then there’s the emotion that generally comes out of why aren’t the books on the shelf!)

    Also, you never know how soon you may want to be sharing those books with your kids. We read the first Box Car Children aloud when my youngest was just 3!

  4. I’ve heard a statistic ( a serious one) that the larger number of books in your house, the smarter your kids turn out to be. Also, what did Belle ( Beauty and the Beast) and Danielle (Ever After) find so wonderful about their beaux? They had huge libraries!!! :) At least you’re not hoarding precious moments figurines or shot glasses and you don’t have a TV in every room…

  5. When we moved, I had to go through the dreaded purge. I have packed and moved my books so many times, it just seems second nature to me. But Jonathan said that we need to let go of a lot of them. And we did. And still, some how, I managed to have 10 {not so small} boxes of can’t-part-with books. And the disease really does get worse when you have kids. Because I always think, “I don’t need books, but how can I say no to the girls?”. So far, our only saving grace is being so incredibly close to the library. Being closer to the library than a bookstore is really, really nice. Although, it is a bit heartbreaking making Julia return a “favorite” book every 3 weeks.

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