Over the course of several months this past year, Keith and I got rid of something like five hundred books. We still have several hundred left but these, we have decided, are keepers. It took days to determine which titles got to stay, warm and cozy on their shelves, and which would get packed up into extra-strong cardboard boxes and toted to a book donation spot, but I’m surprised to say that I haven’t longed for a single banished book.
2009 was also the year I rediscovered the library — and, even better, the network of libraries that I can request books from — thereby giving me a means to reacquaint myself with any book I sent out the door, as well as the opportunity to test-drive new writers without spending who-knows-how-many dollars on who-knows-how-many books. Some authors’ works I’ll always buy and never be able to part with (like Ann Patchett, Lois Lowry and Steve Almond) but others’ I’m more than happy to visit at the bookstore. I’m all for supporting artists — which good writers are, without a doubt — but Keith and I’ve also got an apartment-hold to support, and we come first. Right now, anyway. Ask me again after I trip over a bag of no-strings-attached money.
At any rate, turns out the Times has been pondering the same thing — regarding tossing books, that is. They even used their clout to ask a few writers and Fred Bass, co-owner of the Strand Bookstore, to share their thoughts on the matter. I found myself most agreeing with what David Matthews (no, not Dave Matthews) had to say — “If I’m being honest, some of it is on my shelf because I like the idea of it being on my shelf” — which is exactly why I got rid of all my Roland Barthes and, like Matthews, our copy of Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy. And you know what? I haven’t missed them for a second. Neither have my bookcases, whose shelves are now sagging out of relief instead of with weight.