I can also borrow pretty much anything for my Kindle from our library system whenever I want. From home or abroad, I can download it instantly and it expires when it’s “due”, so it can’t ever be returned late.
And if it’s not on the Kindle, I can get it from the library! The library is only a couple miles from our house. It’s huge and lovely, and basically has everything.
So I don’t need books anymore, right?
But I do. Some of them because the copy itself is meaningful to me (it’s signed by the author, I was reading it when I decided to make some huge life change, it’s been to 40+ countries with me). Some of them because I look things up in them shockingly often. Some because I want to have a copy available to lend when someone needs them. And some because they’re annotated in a helpful way.
But all that together probably only makes one shelf of books. So why, for example, am I keeping Freakonomics? I love that book. I’ve read it 4 or 5 times. I’ve assigned papers about it. But do I need to own it?
If I’m honest, it’s because I don’t want to be the kind of person who doesn’t own Freakonomics. Because I’m not ready to be someone who doesn’t have books in their house. I like the way they look. I like seeing the titles and thinking about reading them or having read them. And, I’ll admit, I like the picture of my interests that they tell when they’re looked at together, by me or anyone else. It’s like the perfect version of myself.
In past years I’ve made peace with donating books that I had bought (my normal book price is 25 cents or lower) but hadn’t yet read if they’d been moved more than once. And I’m rather good at getting rid of books that I read and didn’t particularly love.
This week we are moving, and every time we move I try to get rid of anything that it’s silly to keep. This time, two huge boxes of books made the cut. And trust me, there have been lots of cuts before. But do I need Black’s Law Dictionary? I like how it looks on the shelf. But I do not need it.
I kept a lot of things I don’t need. I don’t need The Color Purple. I don’t need Their Eyes were Watching God. I don’t need The Good Society. And I certainly don’t need 50 different versions of Alice in Wonderland. But I kept all those.
So one box of books is going to the Prison Books Program, and I’m really happy about that. And one box is getting sold back to Amazon — sure, it’s only for $20, but those add up. And one box is getting donated to the library, so that someone else can find a book for 25 cents and move it obsessively around the country until, one day, they too decide that they don’t really need it. Because books are more transient than we think.
Do you keep books just because of the way their presence looks or makes you feel? Or are the rest of you way more organized than me?
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