I've been collecting books for a long time, one way or another. I started gathering them about me from my earliest memories, picked out my own that I wanted to buy early on in elementary school, and at the age of 12 - after seeing Phil Farmer's 20,000 volume collection in this pre-Internet age when information was not necessarily at your fingertips - decided that I wanted my own personal library. So for thirty years I assumed that once I got my own house then that would be that - I'd get all the books shelved and turn the house into a permanent biblio-fixture.

Strangely enough, while I do still have several thousand books that aren't going anywhere shelved all over the house, now that I am a homeowner for the first time I've kind of accelerated the pace of giving books away.

It's not many - a small box every few weeks - and it's not exactly unprecedented. I've given away hundreds of books over the past fifteen years, since my first big move. But I've never owned a house before, been able to put the shelves and books exactly where I wanted with no one (except perhaps structural engineers) to gainsay me, and I hadn't expected to keep purging once I did.

I don't have enough shelves, and I don't want to add any more shelves to the library room since it's not a ground floor, but it's not really a space issue. I can always get and fit more shelving. And sometimes I'll look at the giveaway box and think, "Why not keep them? When you've already got a few thousand, what difference will an extra dozen or two make?"

The best answer I can come up with is, while as counter-intuitive as they may have seemed to the pre-house owner me, I'm still getting rid of books because I'm a homeowner.

Not over space, not over crowding from shelves, but because now that I own a home I've been filling it in a permanent way with things that are meaningful to me. Along with books, things like family heirlooms, pictures I particularly like, and the odd bits here and there like favorite antiques and various types of replica weapons have been finding nooks and crannies in ways that they never could while I was renting. Since I'm optimistically assuming my home ownership status is permanent, I want the things around me to be that much more meaningful.

And some things - even books, I shudder to say - aren't quite making the cut. Things I lugged through ten moves over the last twenty-one years are going away, being fostered by the local Goodwill or Better World Books.

Maybe I'll miss some of them. I have replaced a handful of books I've given away over the years - though if I do any book replacing I'll be starting with the two hundred plus I ended up having to throw out due to mildew damage. One thing I can guarantee, though - one way or another, if you come to visit with me, you're still going to be surrounded by books.




February 2015

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