Those of us who are regular readers of books have a tendency to collect books. We love books. We’ll have them wrapping around our walls, staring out at us from open shelves. We’ll have boxes of them tucked away in attics and beneath desks. We’ll have books stacked on top of one another in our halls.
We love the smell of books. The feel of books in our hands. The texture of the pages. There’s something comforting in all those yellowing pages. It’s a piece of history in our hands. It’s ours and no one can take it away from us.
But I can’t say “we” any longer.
For those of you who love your books, you might want to stop reading now. You’re going to be horrified. You’re going to think I’ve gone insane.
I’ve gotten rid of nearly all my books. About 2,000. And I did it on purpose. I’ve only kept about 20 books, ones that are out of print and I know can’t be replaced easily or that have some strong, personal meaning for me.
Why would I do something this insane?
It started a little more than two years ago. My wife and I were moving. Again. And we had about a dozen or more boxes the size of large televisions and those boxes were full of nothing but books. I was tired of moving books. I’m not as young as I used to be.
Plus, the economy hasn’t been great the last couple of years, my wife having been laid off from her job and me having been laid off from two jobs.
I stared and stared at those piled boxes of books. Did I really need them? Mostly, no. It came down to two things for me.
First, how many of those books would I honestly ever read again? Probably very few. I average about 50 or so books a year, not a lot by some readers’ standards but pretty high by others’, and I can count on both hands the number of books I’ve read more than once in my lifetime (The Holy Bible, The Hobbit, Education of a Wandering Man, etc.)
Second, of the books I possibly would read again, how difficult would it be for me to find them again if I had to? The answer, pretty easily. Heck, there are book stores and libraries and used book stores and now e-books and all kinds of opportunities for me to find books. Heck, even if absolute worst came to worst and a meteor hit the earth or there was a nuclear war or the zombies rose up, as long as I survived there would still be tons and tons of books out there somewhere for ages to come. We don’t live in an ancient civilization where all text was kept on hand-written scrolls and stored in only a few precious places. There are books all over the place. Heck, if you’ve got an e-reader (like the Amazon Kindle) you can have hundreds of books at your fingertips.
So I got rid of my books. I can imagine some of you gasping as you’ve read all this. You’d never, ever, under any circumstances get rid of all those books you’ve collected over your lifetime. I don’t blame you. It wasn’t easy for me. And I realize what I did isn’t for everyone.
But I will say this, I don’t miss the books. Really. In fact, it’s kind of like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. And, of course, I still read. But unless it’s a book I’ve written myself or by a friend, or it’s a rare item I would have a difficult time replacing, I no longer keep any of the new books I read.
And what did I do with all those books? Several things. Some I donated to libraries or to reading programs for children. Some I sold at used book stores. Some I just gave away to friends.