A friend wrote me the other day and described an issue I’ve also had to face:
I’ve struggled with keeping too many books, books I won’t read again, books no one in my house will read again… My paper books are amulets that spark memories I don’t want to forget.
I’ve done one round of book clearing, moving some off my home office bookshelf, and I need to do another. But the warm memories I have for some of the titles outweighs (so far) my need to clear the space. Some of those books represent real spiritual milestones for me. Some I actually have gone back to for a second read or, at least, for sampling reminders.
For others, I should learn to look through the cold, clear eyes of my friend’s children.
They routinely apologize to me when they are discarding books. “Mom I know we loved reading this book together when I was ten but I’m not going to reread The Mouse and The Motorcycle…ever.”
I think I’m fairly thick-skinned about the books I have written. I don’t expect them to enjoy any more immortality than most of the books I have held, read and passed along or traded away. I know what I did with my father’s room-sized bookshelf after he died. I kept two or three titles, partly because he had written notes in the page margins. I had enjoyed listening to him tell me about them. But I knew I would not get around to reading them myself. So off they went to the Salvation Army.
I’ve done the same thing with my past book collections over the years. If I still had those past titles on my bookshelf no doubt they would trigger warm memories like the amulets my friend speaks of.
But I know I wouldn’t reread them. Once was wonderful. And once was enough. In the time I have left I want to go on to new books. And I want to honestly recognize that some books I enthusiastically bought are unlikely to actually get read now, so I might as well pass them along so they have a chance to end up with someone who will.
I’ll get around to it. If I can overcome the thought of never seeing them again.
(And as for those books I’ve written, thanks for leaving a review after you read them! That’s one way to pass along your enjoyment even after you shelve the books themselves.)