on the disposal of books

Not the best few days I’ve ever had.

I began dealing with the boxes slowly. But two of my neighbours, seeing me struggling with books up and down the tenement stair, kindly decided to help me. In just a couple of hours, we had transferred the contents of the boxes into my living room.

It was hideous and overwhelming.

While I was studying for my masters degree in the mid ’90s, I worked in a University bookshop. The returns policy on mass-market paperbacks was simple: you had to rip the covers off, and throw them in the bin. I remember regarding this task as both depressing and sacrilegious. Books were just commodities?! NO! Acquisitive as well as appalled, I developed a habit of rescuing these books at stock-take time. Having ripped the covers off to render them worthless, I then bought wrapping paper, and re-covered them to render them of readable value again. I found several of these personally wrapped books among my boxes: George Eliot, Dos Passos, John Stuart Mill.

I have always loved reading, and regard the book-as-object as something to be cared for and treasured. And since I was a teenager, I’ve also enjoyed having books, and spent many happy hours seeking them out at library sales, bookfairs, second-hand shops.

I kept on reading and acquiring my way through three degrees. By the time I was appointed to my first lecturing post, my office at work had become a necessary storage space for all my many tomes.

I am still reading and acquiring — ironically, at the very moment the delivery company arrived with my 49 boxes, I was in the process of ordering a couple of books on ABE – but I no longer have the luxury of an external space in which to store my acquisitions.
And they are just that – acquisitions, possessions.

I treated myself to a compact OED when I finished writing my PhD. As an object, with its wee magnifying glass and drawer – it is incredibly pleasing but when was the last time I actually used it? I absolutely love the digital OED, which does not pose storage issues. . .

I hold no truck with authors like Graham Swift, who like to gripe about the effects of digitisation. As far as I’m concerned, e-books hold the potential to put the power of the word back in the hands of writers, encouraging an artisanal independence. And you don’t have to worry about where you are going to put the bloody things.

In their simple status as objects I no longer have use for, I have no problem getting rid of my 49 boxes of book-possessions – but, unfortunately, they are also objects invested with a personality – mine.

The objects speak of fifteen years of teaching.

And of thoughts toward a doctorate.

I spent most of Thursday being profoundly irritated by the fact that, after sorting through thousands of books, I still couldn’t find the paperback copy of Sartor Resartus that I bought on Bury market when I was 16. But, in the end, what does that particular object really mean? I have another copy (of course), my original thoughts about it, and a reinvigorated interest in Carlyle. But it is sometimes very hard to shake off the meanings one invests in objects. As long as these particular objects weren’t here, I didn’t have to think too much about what they represented. Dealing with their presence – as well as their sheer volume – has been quite difficult – much more emotionally difficult, than, say, getting rid of my shoes. Quite apart from the fact that properly cataloguing and selling them would be a gargantuan task that I have absolutely no enthusiasm for, I fear that if the books had stayed around, they would have started to seriously mess with my mind. So, after putting aside all the poetry, the old Marxists, the books written by me or by my friends, I have got rid of the rest. I felt quite peculiar, but lighter, as if sloughing off a dead skin. I am not going to tell you where they went. But if anyone ever comes across a book with my name or notes in it, I don’t want to know.

73 responses

  1. Well done you! I also find getting rid of “things” harder than it ought to be considering that they are only objects, and I like to think that I am not materialistic! It does feel good once you bite the bullet though doesn’t it? – Reminds me of a short article in yesterday’s Guardian magazine about a reverse phenomenon where we treat objects that once belonged to despised people (such as Hitler) as if they are contaminated, and consequently feel repelled by them. Just as illogical really.

    • After retiring a few years ago and no longer needing to write articles and such, I, too, am faced with what to do with all those books! I recently met a young woman writing her dissertation in the same area I did mine–I’m going to offer her and her department all that I’ve accumulated.

  2. Well done!
    I wish I had your courage. My accessible books are mostly novels, so without any deep emotional connection really, but I still find it difficult to part with them. Hence a full wall of book shelves with double depth books and every nook and cranny packed too.

  3. From epic to short story. Good for you.

    I notice the Guardian offered yesterday a slip of paper to put into a book which you leave in a public place for someone else to enjoy. One simply is not enough.

    • You can write your own slips to insert or post-its to stick on the cover.
      I write: “Take it if you’ll read it” and leave in a relatively conspicuous place. By leaving a note people don’t have to worry about the book being truly free.

  4. Good for you, Kate. I also struggle with getting rid of ‘things’ but always feel ‘lighter’ afterwards. i have a friend who gives away something if she feels down and always feels the better for it.

    A good job done!

    L

  5. Difficult for me to get rid of these items: books!
    Each book is a part of me … I dragged everywhere.
    They surround me.
    This is cumbersome in a house but I find them even after years. I read them, reread them … it’s always me another meeting!
    good day
    xxx

  6. I have so much sympathy with your situation. I have twice relocated to different continents and the hardest task of all, second to leaving children behind, was to abandon my beloved books, which had followed me through life. If truth be told, they creepily started to become my life.
    I was more than surprised though, that after biting the bullet, tackling the situation, donating right, left and centre…I actually felt so much ‘free-er’ after they had gone. I still think of them fondly, like long lost friends…but also with absolute relief.
    I know your situation is very different, your’s represent your academic profession so starkly and adaptation to your new life, but I hope this will give you a little encouragement to get on with the task.
    Good luck!!!
    ps – I think that you have such an ability to write and express yourself well, obviously a talent for amazing knitting and incredible inspiring determination, that you will go far and be so successful in the next stage of your life – piles of books or no books!! Sue.

  7. I think I said before that I listed mine on Amazon when I stopped teaching. The unsold titles (not for want of trying) are still hanging about. Perhaps I should take a leaf out of your book (if you’ll pardon the pun). It would free up some shelf/box space for the preloved books I just know I’ll go on buying!

  8. Congratulations on taking that step. I share the same love of books, and have far to many with no reason to really hold on to them either. After MUCH urging from my husband I ‘ve started to “relocate” the books to new homes over the past year, and while it is difficult, I find that I do feel a wee bit lighter after each box is out the door and in the hands of someone new. Great post!

  9. Great job on disentangling yourself from the books!

    I am trying to deal with the same thing – giving books away. I’m not having any angst about the actual “getting rid of”; the angst is around the “where to give them.” Libraries aren’t interested. I am also dealing with the question of when we finally throw something away. It feels odd to throw away books, yet maybe it’s time? My books are as varied as the days: philosophy, organization, classics, modern fiction, politics …. on and on and on. Where should they go, other than to the landfill? Suggestions welcomed! Fortunately the e-readers will eliminate a lot of the use of natural resources as well as the problem of disposal.

    Gale, pondering her books

  10. I’m a bit surprised at how gutwrenching it was for me reading this. I’m just starting my masters this year, and I’m already running out of shelf space at home to put them on. Just reading about you getting rid of them is really disconcerting. Well done, of course, for being able to get rid of them – I have a lot of respect for your being able to do that, but my god, you’re brave.

  11. I did the very same thing with my personal books and six big boxes of cook books over the summer break. They went to second hand book store where I now have HUNDREDS of dollars of credit. Now I am working on my office at the University. I have books from my three graduated programs and all those sample texts the publishers send you, along with my reference texts. Sigh. . . Also have both a Kindle and an iPad. I am busy converting all of my favorite knitting patterns into PDFs so I can store on computer and use on IPad app for knitting. Now what to do with all those years of journals ~~ into the recycle bid. Yeah for clearing out the mess; hoping that you are feeling as light of heart as I am.

  12. Hi Kate, well this post was not yet published as I emailed you. My heart is heavy for you and incredibly proud of the lion heart you have. Throughout nearly 18 months of posts you can see the tension between looking back and looking forward. Thinking of you Lisa.

  13. When I moved across the North Sea, I had to get rid of most of my books. I had worked in academia, in publishing, and in bookshops. I had many books as you might imagine. I marked them with tiny stickers. Red: We’re through. Yellow: we need to talk. Green: we’ll be together forever. Eventually I got rid of the reds and yellows (freecycle was useful, actually). It felt like such a relief. A millstone removed. But six years later, I can still see the gaps, the ghosts. I still reach for books I no longer own.

  14. Gosh Kate, I have a lot of empathy for you here. I too worked in a University Bookshop, several libraries before that and as a Book Buyer for some large chains for a few years. I too rescued books, collected many and hoarded even more. I now live in a tiny flat with my little boy and with my newish passion for knitting have less and less time or inclination to read, especially books that I didn’t actually purchase but just kept for that dreamed of time in my life when I’d have a library to fill.
    The clutter and burden of storing them has felt oppressive for a while, but for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to purge. Reading your post has made me realise how much better I’ll feel once they’re gone and that I don’t need to stress about selling them. Thanks for that!

  15. Whoah… you have dealt with them all already?! That is astonishing to me. Just the sheer physical effort involved, let alone the emotional stuff. Your determination and resilience leaves me in awe.
    As I write, I have just been ploughing through my back-issues of The Knitter magazine to see how many things I actually want to knit. Not many. But what did I do with the magazines? I put them in a pretty cardboard box and slunk them into my son’s room, thinking I will clear them away before he comes back from Uni at Christmas. It’s called denial. I really need to Do A Kate. But it is HARD! Pathetic.

  16. Oh I hear you! We’re downsizing up to Yorkshire at the start of next year & since the books will no longer be able to have a room of their very own, we’re having to be ruthless. The first purge got rid of probably about a third of all the books in the house and that was a LOT of books, let me tell you. A kindle and a second purge is being planned.

  17. When, at several points in my life, I’ve had to get rid of a large number of loved books, I’ve adopted the mantra that books are to be read and that now it was time for these books to go forth to delight another reader. It worked well, although sometimes I’ve missed particular ones, and once or twice have bought another copy!

  18. Kate,

    I’ve been away from any internet reading for at least a month, due to moving and classes starting in full swing, so I need to catch up on why you went through the purging phase. Its a phase I am so familiar with, I have a sister who is minamilist to a scary extreme, and periodically decides its time to purge my books. I’ve told her what not to purge, but cannnot watch the purge itself or I would be rescuing my own books. There are so many I have read, passed to others, bought another one for myself, and repeated the process, that I lose count of how many of each particular title I’ve owned. My latest move left me with only, only five boxes of books out of a total of too many to admit, and accidentally some were given away that were not meant to be. I found an old used bookstore (repleat with cobwebs, dark corners and old chairs stuffed away) and sought to rebuild those I had lost. And I mostly have, and they still retain my interest and enthusiasm. But I can’t forget those other unnumbered boxes that went to a friend who makes his living selling used books in the internet. I just wonder, where did they go? Who bought them and why? I wonder if they have the same interests as I do, or if there is another reason the books were bought? Books once were lifetime companions, and now they, by the dozens of boxes, have gone on a journey all their own. I am glad for the space and freedom, but I honestly have to say I miss the books I’ve even forgotten.

    I’ll catch up soon on your life, and have a new perspective on why you chose to clear out the head space. Here’s wishing you the best,

    Martha in the US

  19. A while ago I was given half a specialized library full of fiber related books that were destined for a trash bin if I didn’t rescue them. The task of transporting and storing them was not as huge as yours but I took cheer when I started listing them for sale on Amazon…the money coming in went for new books, of course. A cheap bar code reader helped streamline the process of listing them into the computer and onto A’s website.

  20. Wow, you did it! I feel all tense inside just thinking about it – full cheers to you and more for all the determination it took.

  21. Well done! Every time I moved during my early journalism career, I got rid of books. The first time I moved I actually sold them.
    My main motivation was that US movers charge by weight. And, naturally I acquired more till the next move.

  22. I used to love physical books so much that one of my comforts when I was working on a miserable doctorate in Economics is that I would go to the stacks of the library where the literature lived and just breathe in the smells and run my hand along their spines. I loved the library so much that I took a detour and completed another degree in library and archival studies (and even dabble in book restoration). I’m writing these things because I’ve been completely converted to e-books in the last year. I was shocked that I could be so easily swayed, but I feel lighter now that I have a compact device that fits in my purse and from which I can access anything in P. Gutenberg at any moment! Good for you for doing the sorting and lightening up your load a bit.

  23. I’ve been wondering about your books, and am amazed at how quickly you’ve done this. Really well done on doing something so hard – I’m glad you feel lighter for it.

  24. Congrats! I’ve sold many boxes of books more than twice. My husband has stacks of boxes in our barn. A friend stopped by my house a few weeks ago, as she entered my office she said “My! you really like books.” I understand it’s difficult to let go. It’s good you feel lighter, it’s great you were able to physically handle the chore, so glad your neighbors helped with the stairs.

  25. I have moved around quite a bit in my (some would say) short existence. The house I currently reside in represents my 23rd residence (in 32 years). I have never lived in one place longer than 5 years and while some of my friends find that fact appalling, I don’t regret it a bit. Being quasi-nomadic has taught me NOT to define myself based on my material possessions or where I live. I’m learning to give things away freely and without regret. I also practice yoga, which is helping to teach me the concept of detachment.

    In other words: can’t very well take it with ya, now can you? The books can wander into someone else’s universe now and inspire them to achieve great things.

    You are you because of your experiences. Everything you have read informs who you are (and will become). The books need not be crowding your personal space in order for them to matter. Your mind is a much more limitless library than any bookshelf you could manage to squeeze into your flat. I, for one, can not wait to embrace the e-book (saving up for an iPad as we speak). Imagine – all those amazing works (centuries-worth!) at my fingertips, anytime, anywhere. Swoon.

  26. My husband (also a former academic) and I have moved many times together, lugging books (not to mention my piano!) across the ocean, up and down fourth floor walk-up stairs, in and out of basements. Most of them currently reside in boxes beneath our bed and that of our son. After so much effort, thought and back-breaking on their behalf, I find I am extremely ambivalent about them now. Your post, coupled with my delight with my Kindle and the luxury of a marvelous public library nearby, may mean I’m ready to let a lot of them go. Not my beloved piano though. She stays!

  27. Well done, you!
    I still live at home, but that hasn’t stopped me from acquiring thousands of books. My teeny bedroom consists of a wall of books, a bed, a TV and another bookshelf that the TV lives on. And even though I have so many and rarely read as much as I used to, I still cannot stop buying them.

    Congrats on your lightness. Crossing my fingers that someday I will have that strength.

  28. Having left an academic position here in the U.S. over three years ago, and faced with a similar mountain of texts, I confess I left mine to sit in a room we were not using for more than a year. Just could not face them. How do you make judgments based on emotional value, memories, etc? My spouse and I finally tackled the lot about a year later, at which point I took a cut and burn approach. Do I miss any of them. Not a bit! (But I did keep a few, along with my portfolio.)

  29. This is a post I could have written. Books are the hardest possessions for me to get rid of, so much harder than clothes. I feel like I’ve left little bits of me attached to their pages.

  30. I understand your emotional attachment to books – I still have my ever school prize (Oliver Twist told in pictures, like a comic!!) But although I love the feel and smell of books when I am reading, I also appreciate the practicality of the Kindle. Malcolm loves his, and having just given Stuart one for his birthday/Christmas, he is totally smitten with it. I could quite easily part with my shoes, but not so easily with my books …..

  31. Thank you for sharing your journey re:THE BOOKS OF DOOM with us. I am very attached to certain books/book-objects; especially the ones connected with significant projects or endeavours, and I can see immediately how terrifying the arrival of the 49 boxes of books must have been, and why dealing with THE BOOKS OF DOOM was harder than dealing with THE SHOES OF DEATH.

    Even though my undergraduate BA thesis was 7 years ago, I still hoard all the tomes I purchased and read in order to write it, and they have – as you describe – acquired a symbolic value and meaning which reaches far beyond the information which they contain. I too own books which I have kept because the circumstances surrounding their acquisition are memorable, and I too connect specific books with certain phases of self and being. I think – apart from all the memories they evoked – the the sheer volume of tomes arriving IN YOUR FACE must have been very overwhelming.

    Good call on getting rid, I say, especially after your amazing pod-revival of recent weeks.

    I should follow suit; My Studio has been unusable since I moved in here last November because I have been A. too busy to sort it out and B. too afraid of purging THE STUFF and contemplating how important it all is, on some level… I like your clear-headed approach to ridding yourself of THE STUFF and looking firmly forward. Very inspiring.

  32. Oh gosh, it is hard to let go of books! I’ve been trying not to hoard them (I fear being one of those crazy people who can’t get rid of anything), and the result is that I don’t really get any new books. Gah! Except I can’t resist really pretty books – the Penguin Classics and White’s Fine Editions are so lovely…And I have trouble resisting big coffee table books (sometimes I ask myself why I started collecting the set of books of the collected works of John Singer Sargeant, and then I look at one, and then I have to look up when the next one is being published – five volumes and counting, so far…) And sometimes even crappity paperbacks can get so meaningful. There is a reason why we sometimes call our spare bedroom ‘the library’…

    I can’t imagine having to get rid of that many books. And good on your neighbours for helping – I hope it all doesn’t bring on the fatigue.

  33. Oh, wow. I had to undergo a similar, albeit much smaller, book reduction when I graduated high school – I needed a place to fit my new university texts! There was only so much space in my old bedroom and my mother frowned on stacks of books in the middle of the room (excellent coffee tables, if properly balanced). I find it so much more difficult to let go of books, and even magazines, than clothing.

    There was a fantasy series that my cousin and I loved when we were younger and we split the cost of buying it – I would buy one book, he the next, and each of us would store what we’d bought at our own house but write both of our names in the inside flap. After finishing high school, we both agreed that this series was among the selection that had to go. Years later, I saw one of the original books in a second-hand shop (the cover art had been redone since we first bought our books) and felt nostalgic, so I bought it. I’m sure you can guess where this is going… I bought the exact same book twice; once when I was 11, then again when I was 28. I’m fairly sure that “our” book hadn’t sat in that shop for 10 years, and thinking about the random chances that lead me to find it again makes me smile.

  34. Bravo Kate! Such a hard decision but congratulations for doing it. I found your post really moving. I’m very attached to books but have tried to adopt quite a ruthless approach in recent years and only keep books I really love (mainly children’s books), some books from my degree that I adore but I still feel pangs now and again for things I’ve got rid of (like my shelf of Rebus books!) I still have 3 walls of books at my mums which one day will catch up with me. I think Karie description of looking for ghosts of books on the shelves is quite apt. I’m still a big library fan but invariably they don’t have ones I want. I’m quite taken by the idea of e-books for the whole space saver/not having so much stuff. Big hug x

  35. power to you. I left academia a while back and also gave (almost) all my books away and it felt good. no regrets!
    regards,
    Sierrra (in Berlin)

  36. I cannot say that I don’t feel your pain at parting with – and having – books. Books are everywhere in our house, and as we age, we give things away. One thing is books. But to whom? That is a good question at times – other times, we sell them to second-hand dealers and on eBay. But parting with books is like parting with a good friend, perhaps for the last time. Ebooks have their place, but there is nothing to replace the paper and ink and the physical – as opposed to virtual reality – of a book.

    In our culture, we take books for granted. But in some parts of the world, they are still a luxury. In the Virgin Islands, bookstores do not exist. A popular novel is not found in the corner store. In South America, Mexico, and other parts of the world, a book is a priceless item. Have you considered some sort of charity for bookless parts of the world?

  37. Oh, wow. That occasion deserves a meditative sigh for sure. I can’t quite explain, but I am one who believes such catharsis is the breath of life. For me, it’s instruments and sheet music and books of music. Or was, until I off-loaded too. I feel so much better having the few remaining things in my possession, things which really *still* matter. My one instrument, a couple of music books. Perhaps, instead of talking about *my* purgings on *your* blog, I will give honor to you by posting on my own blog, a similar purging of Things Unnecessary and thereby Gaining Perspective. Maybe you’ll start a trend here Kate. An exodus of the spirit ! From things which don’t really define ourself, into actually *being* what defines ourself.

    I will close with a lovely line from a song by Sheryl Crow ” It’s not having what you want, but wanting what you’ve got”. I love that. It cleanses my perspective often.

  38. When my husband died, an older friend of mine gave the best advice. She said to ” get rid of his clothes as soon as possible. As time goes on they will become more precious and after all, in the end, it’s just a shirt.” I did as she said and feel like it was the right choice for me, the few things I didn’t get rid of I’m now having trouble throwing away because over time too much sentiment has attached itself to the ‘things’. I think your books fall in this category and I understand your reluctance completely. In the end though, they’re books. You have the essence of them inside you.

  39. I too have been fighting myself over my books. While I do have some precious(to me) signed copies of favourite authors, I have struggling with storage issues and just too much stuff,lol! Bravo to you for taking this big step!

  40. Seems like every month I am dropping another box of books at the public library here. We have a big public library system here in Washington, and it feels good to hand these books over knowing that they will help stock the shelves of some of the sparser libraries in the city. Still, I wonder how on earth we seems to spawn more books. That wonderful independent bookstore around the corner (part of the reason we bought the house in this neighborhood) might have something to do with it?

  41. Oh, and I’ve also had a book give-away birthday party for myself. I put out all the books I wanted to give away on tables and “required” everyone to take as many as they wished. Wish I could take credit for the idea, but it was the brainchild of my friend, Thor, who stipulated that at his wake all his books had to be put out on tables and in the seats and the mourners told to carry off their favorites. It was a great idea, though I think I would have traded the wake for Thor, even so.

  42. Thank you for being so open in this post. A tear fell as I read because as a child, I struggled quite a bit with attachment to things. I have since been able, somehow, to let go–I don’t collect anything, and there’s no item in my possession I couldn’t live without. But I feel for you.

    The wonderful thing is that you still have the knowledge gained from all those books. You still have memories of reading them, and when you see a title you are familiar with, you will smile because you know all about it. You won’t be weighed down by looking at piles and piles or shelves upon shelves of books you no longer really use anymore.

    Congratulations.

  43. Oh my! So many books you got rid of! Good for you…. it would be so hard for me to do this. Your post made me think of Ann Fadiman’s book “Ex Libris” – you know it? If not, I think you can get it digitally! at least I hope so…. if not, it’s a very small book and all about books, reading, relationships we have with them and with other people through them.

    p.s. here in the States it’s available for Kindle readers through Amazon!!

  44. I worked in a bookstore for seven years, and it was there that I stopped treating books as Special Objects that Must Be Revered. Watching the constant cycles of book in, book out, new edition, new format, I really got to see that the words and ideas are always out there in the world, and you can always obtain them again if you need to (with certain limited exceptions, of course). The only books I still have are those I use frequently (the prosaic and non-intellectual cookbooks and craft books), maybe a dozen of my favourite recent fiction novels, and those books I studied that had an extraordinary influence on me (Don DeLillo, you may go!) Our house has a single large bookshelf. Cf the six – six – bookshelves that fold themselves into my academic friends’ one-bedroom flat (not to mention they each have an office for more books also). It is a powerful and freeing thing to accept that the ideas are permanent, so the object need not be. If only I could apply it to other areas of life!

  45. A swift cut is sometimes the best. Reinventing/refinding/reimagining ourselves isn’t always easy – congratulations on a difficult task well done.

    I just downsized too, leaving only 4 linear meters of books – ones I love and intend to keep “forever” and some to read this winter. And two boxes of professional reference books that may or may not be around in 2 years.

  46. did you keep the compact OED?

    that edition is rare around these parts. you can find them, but they never have their magnifying glasses in the drawers…

  47. Very brave! I have a box of academic books under my bed that I’ve been trying to get up the nerve to get rid of for years. Now that I need the space for my son’s outgrown baby clothes (I know, even more sentimental and ridiculous) maybe I’ll finally let them go. I stopped feeling quite so sentimental about physical books when I worked in the publishing industry and saw what happened to the books that never sold. Into the chipper! At least second hand books don’t get mulched like the unsold ones that were never read even once before they went to waste.

  48. Kate,

    I’m amazed that you have already gone through and sorted all of the books, and got rid of the ones you aren’t keeping. My husband and I spent the weekend finally giving away stuff we’d been planning to for about 2 years now! We felt pleased with ourselves, but it was nothing compared to the amount of organisation and self-discipline it must have taken you to get through such a gargantuan task in such a short time.

    Congratulations on taking such a step forward towards your new life.

    Jenny

  49. Woo! That must have been a big breath out! You got rid of them, and look, you’re still Kate.
    I am not a big fan of Kindles, although I can see their use for travelling, however if I want to rent a book I’ll go to the library, and I don’t think they’ll replace books as convenience, as your post shows, isn’t all we get from those volumes. Having said all that, once we moved (actually to a bigger house), I had a book disposal session where I got rid of any books i didn’t think I would re-read, or recommend to a friend, It trimmed it down massively, and I still apply those rules to any books I read. I followed that up with a year of not buying books as the to-read pile needed trimmed, and I really needed to learn not to buy a book just because I could, and I learned to live slightly more in the “now” rather than the mythical “one day I will..”
    It is very liberating to be able to throw things out, even more liberating not to feel you have to buy in the first place. Still working on that with the yarn….

  50. Well done, for doing it so quickly.

    I also feel that It’s the emotional attachment to the circumstances of reading, or using, the book to which one is attached. I still remember where and when I bought or read many of my books. They are shelved according to when they were read, rather than any logic that would help anyone else using my ‘library’. I can look at my shelves and think ‘school’, ‘university’, ‘women’s literature evening class’, ‘bookclub’, ‘holiday’, which is like looking back at my life.

    What has been disappointing is that I imagined that my children would be interested in reading my books. They have been but they have generally wanted to acquire their own copies, with the exception (annoyingly) of my volume one of War and Peace, now forever separated from its other half.

  51. My husband bought me an iPad when the 2nd gens came out. I am using it largely wfor books, and there is a huge amount of relief at switching to digital. I never thought I would like digital…but as we have no space in our home for my mountain of book boxes, and as I was becoming increasingly frustrated with being unable to access them it seemed like a good solution. To my delight, I actually love reading on my iPad. Now that I’m used to it I’m planning a thorough cleaning out of my own boxes.

  52. I have to downsize and I am having a terrible time with my books. I have had several deep interests in my life and some that have gone all the way through – like knitting – and I cannot bear to let go of these collections! I have a full collection of Rowan knitting books, also Alice Starmore, Debbie Bliss and a few others, and then some wonderful fashion books, and also tomes on how to drape and sew, and equestrian books galore that I want to pass on but to whom? No one seems to want them? I don’t want to re- purchase them digitized – but will investigate getting them digitized which will solve all my problems and sell them to the used book store around the corner, except for the knitting books, the fashion books, the equestrian books and my original Whole Earth Catalog of course. Kate I admire your fortitude and wish I had your OED, something I have wanted in any form every since I knew it existed at about age 19 when I first saw it at a university library in the states.

  53. Thank you so much for sharing “that you could not go through with the gargantuan task of selling” – I begun two weeks ago with approximately 12 kilo a day which with my injured back will take me on and off till Christmas (books and papers), but it has hurt being confronted by a couple of friends with “why don´t you put them up for sale on the internet, you do need the money one would think etc”, not understanding how much more of a strain this would be – so, thank you again for sharing your thoughts with a stranger, it made it easier to do what has to be done, letting go of the majority of my collected literature.

  54. After getting my degrees I have boxes full of books that are being stored in my basement. There is simply no more shelf space left in the house. My digital book reader is a welcome bit of technology. It means I can continue to collect books without wondering where I am going to put them.

  55. I hear where you are coming from, when you write about these books.
    You have grown, you retain the knowledge you honed from the books, you call on it when you need to.
    I think it was great that you got rid these books, you grow wiser without them now.
    You will go on to collect different books, and maybe write your very own.

  56. Although I am not at all Buddhist, I do agree that sometimes possessions own the possessor.
    (Is that Buddhist? I used to know such things but being sick a lot tends to focus the mind on other areas.)
    I adore a good clear out. Anything that is in my home and not used or treasured is freeloading. If I figure the cost in terms of rent per square foot, keeping a cheap and replaceable unused item makes no sense at all.

  57. Share your love for Carlyle sometime? I’ve just read “Sartor Resartus” and I’m not entirely sure what to make of it…

    Book purging is sad and brave. I’m slowly sorting through my books – I moved all my stuff across from my parents’ place this summer, and the books have no where to live. I’m getting rid of quite a few – undergrad ones, textbooks, randombly acquired third and fourth copies of novels (but they all have different introductions!), etc. I’ve been Bookcrossing for years, and I’ve always found it very comforting to release books… Not that many at once though!

  58. Kate! – If nothing else, let me comfort you with the fact that I, I have your copy of *Sartor Resartus*! (purple spine, etc?) – slightly gratuitously, as I think I have another copy of my own. It can be back with you licketty-split. Hope all is going along all alright with you. Sorry etc it has been such a while, etc, etc… xx

  59. After my dad died I went up to his study and stared at his shelves and shelves of books. There he was, his essential self, brought together in that collection of science fiction, scientific works, favourite novels, reference books, nature writings and all those other interests he pursued so avidly throughout a lifetime.
    Like you, not having the luxury of space to keep the collection (and even if I had, they would no doubt have lost their meaning once taken away from his study) I eventually had to clear them, along with most of the rest of the contents of my parents home. The person they represented is still with me in my heart and head and I feel lighter now that all those “things” are gone.

  60. I have slowly done the book clean out with my cookbooks. And I probably could do it again. I need to finish going through my fiction books. I donated a rather large pile to the church rummage sale last spring. But I still have more. I am thinking the second hand bok store provided they are offering more than a penny a book.

  61. I priced the OED for my ex husband a number of years ago (10? 15?) at that time it was $1100 US, of course full size…that said, it’s REALLY important to get rid of books and move on…

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