Sunday, October 21, 2012


progress report

My determination to cut the number of books in my home library in half is, in a word, wavering.  This week I sorted through literature, poetry, memoirs, religion, travel, art, children's books, family books (inherited, with family names written inside), history, books about Maine or by Maine authors, house and home, cats!, gardening, cookery, art, reference books, and leatherbounds/fine bindings.  I have yet to approach the motherlode, books about books.  I have hauled nineteen cartons of books out of the book room thus far.  The boxes I use average 25 books per box, which comes to 475 books.  Some of these books I've been hauling around since college (some read, some still unread), some since my very first job at a new bookstore, through seven moves to and from various apartments, some to my own bookshop, then here to our house, then again when I closed the bookshop.  Enough already, right?  I look at the book room today, after removing all those boxes of outgoing loot, and it seems as if I have hardly made a dent.  When I finish, or when I decide to call it a day, I think I will count the books remaining and see what the size of my library actually is (something I don't think I've ever done before).  I am hoping for a third less than when I started. 

Travel books were the hardest to winnow.  Except for a few notable trips, I have otherwise been an armchair traveler, ever since I was ten years old and started sending away for travel brochures about remote places.  In most other subjects I haven't felt that I was giving anything up, really.  Except in this one, in which I feel as if I am letting go of some long-held dreams about who I thought I was going to be.  Compared with who I actually am.  I'm sure I will face a similar dilemma when I start wading through the books about books, except in that arena I actually did accomplish what I dreamed of as a child - I had my own bookshop.  In going through two immense bookcases full of travel narratives and travel memoirs, though, I experienced such a difficult nameless emotion, I can't even put it into words.  It felt something like regret, but add romance, and nostalgia, and perhaps fortitude.  A sad letting go of who I meant to be and what my best self might have done in life.  I did manage to cut the travel books in half.  But I kept a lot of unusual things, and many of my old favorites. 

Keeping books as emblems of some possible future self that has yet to materialize - that feels like a lot of pressure.  Do I need those reminders around?  This might fall under the category of Clutter Recovery 101 - when an object takes on a symbolic meaning that has nothing to do with the object itself.  Hey, maybe if I sold some of these rare and wonderful travel books, I could actually afford to take a trip...    

It's good that you kept a few of your favourites. I know it would be hard for me. I tried to get rid of my flying books last year. I'm not an active pilot anymore. But something tugged at me - I just wasn't ready to let that part of my life go. Maybe another time.
Thanks for your comment, Elizabeth. Today I am facing a wall of books about books and feeling similarly tugged.

In other areas, I am recognizing that I often take the safe route in life, by staying home and reading about it (whatever it might be, really, fill in the blank), instead of getting out there and doing it.

I think I'll work on that.
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