When one buys books I think it is important to try and read them soon afterwards. Otherwise the reader may love it the day it is purchased but as it sits on the shelf, year after year it changes. No, it is the reader who changes. Our interests change. What attracts us one year doesn’t necessarily feel the same five or ten years later. Also a book we have read and loved dearly may feel differently twenty years later as the reader thinks, “Why did I love that author so much?” Think Marian Keyes. In my younger years I loved her stories. Now in my older years I am bored by them. A woman of a certain age might outgrow them. So, what is all this pontificating leading up to?
I cleaned my bookshelves a bit this week. I still have more to do but I have made a good effort over the past couple of days. But let me back up a bit. A couple of days ago I walked into the Red Cross Op shop. It’s on the Main Street in Hobart and lots of people seem to gather in it. As I walked in I saw all the second hand clothes hanging on racks, colour coordinated in the front of the store. I don’t need clothes so I walked to the back half of the store where all the books are. Neatly sorted I could barely find room to look at the “older author section”. I love that category. Old hardcover books from the 50s and 60s maybe with the off chance of finding something older. But some of the books were from the 80’s. Older authors? I laughed, well maybe. The point is I couldn’t get near the ‘good’ books on these shelves as several people were standing in front of them, casually reading what they had picked up. Never mind if someone else wanted to look. These young people were absorbed, like statues. I looked in other areas but I wasn’t interested in the popular fiction hardcovers that take up one wall alphabetically by author. I have always referred to them as ‘airport books’. I wanted to see what classics they had, what “older authors”. I didn’t buy anything but I did wait long enough to at least have a look. One of the statues was still in the same spot 15 minutes later. I had time to be patient as I was only having a wander through town the day before Christmas to people watch and get my walking steps in as I was all done with Christmas jobs.
When I got home I thought about the books on my shelf that maybe needed to be released into the wild. The ones I know I won’t read now. The ones that might have been daffy gifts. The ones I have read and swore I would read again but will I ? Really?
I decided to do an end of the year cull. I’ll probably take them to Vinnie’s or Red Cross and let the younger people have a go at them. These organisations could use the money too. It really was lovely to see ragged looking young men standing in front of bookshelves, with a classic in their hand and a skateboard wedged under the other arm. I think I’d like a book of mine to go to someone like that. Or a pensioner who can’t afford new books, looking for something interesting to read in their quiet hours at home. Looking at it that way I didn’t feel quite so possessive of my books.
In the past I’d go through my shelves, one book at a time and pull it off the shelf, expecting to put it in a box of books to giveaway or sell. But I’d read the blurb on the back, look at the cover and think, “No, that does sound really good. ” By the end of the day the box is still empty.
But…I had a plan. I opened up the Library Thing app where all of my books are listed. I sorted them alphabetically by author, like my shelves. Then I sat down with a tablet and wrote down those I know I should remove. I didn’t have to handle the books or read the blurbs. Once the list was made, which was easier than I thought to make, I began collecting those books off the shelf. Without studying them too much I began to fill the three carry size boxes I had beside me. There were maybe three or four books I couldn’t bear to put into the box. But I must say, all three boxes are now full.
These boxes are going to go to the people I envision in my mind as finding them in the op shop, excited for a bargain find and lovingly taking them home to enjoy. After all, the Buddhist teachings I enjoy so much really do hammer home the teachings of impermanence and it’s time I realise the books on these shelves fall into that category also.
But readers, don’t worry. I still have a couple of thousand books here and I think this
might become an exercise I do more frequently. I’ll start out with small boxes though.