PMB July: A Book Story

So there’s this strange thing about me that goes against everything you would believe about English professors:

I don’t own very many books.

Growing up, I had plenty of books around the house. However, as I got older, and my appetite for reading grew faster than my parents could pay for, I spent a lot of my time perusing libraries for pretty much everything I could get my hands on. I guess that is the main reason why I’ve never been attached to owning books, or re-reading them. The other reason is that we moved around a lot, and lugging around boxes and boxes of books I’d never re-read seemed like a waste of space and energy.

I also rarely re-read books. To me, it changes the experience so much so that I would rather hold on to my initial impression of it. I’m like that with most movies too, much to my film-degree husband’s chagrin.

When I was in college, and majored in English Education, I met other people who loved reading as much as I did, and I found it strange that most of my peers were passionate…almost obsessive…about keeping books. They would sit around and brag about their extensive collections, and how many times over they’d read each one. I even remember one friend telling me that every time she moved, she had more boxes of books than anything else…combined. Her whole life, her possessions, her everything was wrapped up in boxes and boxes of books.

My book collection hasn’t always been this small. During graduate school, I amassed a huge pile of textbooks, anthologies, magazines, and novels. However, once I graduated, I either sold off, gave away, or donated most of it. Sure, it might be nice to have a copy of Donald Murray’s article “Making Meaning Clear: The Logic of Revision,” but do I really need the other 2 pounds of anthology that came with it? Especially since a quick Google search tells me I can get the article for free online? Yeah…not really.

I also own an iPad, and use an app to get all the public domain books I could ever want to read for free. Having access to digital books and magazines has helped me cut down the number of books and magazines I buy on paper by a ton. Sure, I get the occasional magazine, but I recycle them shortly after reading them anyway, so they don’t pile up anymore.

Every time we move, I usually start my packing process by going through my book collection and seeing what I can get rid of. It’s a quick process, and one that usually gets me excited about packing away everything else. I feel a sense of pride in my ability to pare down my books to only the ones I truly love or need, and find better homes for the rest. Once I’m done reading them, it’s time to let them go on to make someone else happy.

Here’s what I started with:

IMG_2006Like I said, it’s not a lot. I will admit that this doesn’t include the cookbooks I use on a regular basis (which are downstairs in the kitchen), or the textbooks I use for work (since I can’t get rid of those). Either way…it’s not a lot to work with.

IMG_1991I started my process by going through my cookbooks and taking out the ones I only use a few recipes out of, and marking those in each book/magazine. I then took them and typed out each recipe (and where they came from…gotta cite your sources!) to add to my digital recipe book. I will eventually print them all out to put in a binder, but for now they live on the computer. These books will either go to my sister, or get donated.

A few of the books in the far right column are old instructor’s editions of textbooks I no longer use, or were ordered for me by one of the schools I work for. Each publisher is different, but these allow me to ship them back to the publisher for free, so most of them will be going back where they came from. Since I can’t sell or legally donate any of them, it’s better just to send them back.

After all that, here is what I’m left with:IMG_2014This pile may even get smaller in the near future, since I offered to give some of the books in the middle column to my sister. But for now, I’m left with a small pile of books that will easily fit into one box with room to spare. A much lighter load than most, and one that I know is full of books I love, use on a regular basis, or just need to suck it up and finish reading (like Anna Karenina…started it while on vacation years ago, and never finished…bad Heather!).

It’s such a small fraction of what I still have left to pack, but it’s a start…and one that usually sets the tone for the rest of the process of paring down my stuff and packing it away.

I may or may not be back later this week with more posts, but that depends on whether we go out of town this weekend or not. So if I don’t add any more this week, I hope everyone in the U.S. has a great 4th of July, and that everyone else has a great weekend too!



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