― Groucho Marx
As part of my “decluttering” process, I decided to go through my book collection and pare it down enough so that the books I kept would all fit in my largest bookcase instead of overflowing into two others. I managed to pull 81 books off the shelves that I am determined to sell or give away.
In the past, I promised myself that I would finish reading each book before giving it away. With so little time spent in reading, however, reducing my collection in that manner was almost impossible. Several of the books have never been read, or only read in part. Bookmarks sticking out the tops show that I didn’t get very far on many of them. I don't retain information very well, so in order to complete these books meaningfully I would need to start reading from the beginning again. So with the “read each book” criterion in place, not many books left the shelves.
This time around I went at the project from a different angle. I looked at each book with one question in mind: is this book applicable to my life right now? Many of them weren’t. Finance books about investing, for example, just no longer apply. With no money to invest at this time, hanging onto a book that will likely be outdated by the time I ever acquire enough money to invest doesn’t make sense. On the other hand, I’ve kept many of the books relating to creativity, art (drawing, painting, stained glass) and writing because the content of those books is relatively timeless and I hope to explore these endeavors again at some point.
Many cookbooks and diet books lost their shelf space in large part due to my (philosophical) conversion to the Paleo eating lifestyle. Pasta in the recipe? Grains? Out it goes.
Also I have had changes in priorities over time. A quick glance at the spines of my books, and I find five books with the word “success” in their title, four with the word “millionaire,” and one book title that seems to really sum up my previous interest: Having It All. I’m not even sure how I would define success at this point, although I suppose if someone handed me a million dollars I wouldn’t turn it down. But materialistic goals don’t fit in with my current situation, and so those books are going too.
Another thread that runs through my book collection is the concept of “fast and easy,” as seen in titles like: Firm Up in 3 Weeks, Speedwealth, The Automatic Millionaire, Meals in Minutes, The Three Ingredient Cookbook, Instant Persuasion, Just Give Me the Answers (a personal finance book), The Universe in a Nutshell… I didn’t just want it all, I wanted it all now!
I guess reality has struck. I’m not going to have it “all” materialistically any time soon, if ever, and I’m going to have to be patient with how my life unfolds. I don’t know what is in store for me in the future, but I no longer think that a book is going to hold all the answers for getting through life. Sometimes we have to pull our noses out from between the pages and actually live our lives.
So what’s left on my book shelves? Book about my faith, books about creativity, classics old and new, still a spattering of self-help books, some nostalgic works (a Hardy Boys mystery, the children’s story Not This Bear)…
Now that I can buy books in digital format, finding the space to store them is no longer a critical consideration. But I’ll never give up the comfort of having a bookcase stacked with “real,” tangible books that I can pull off the shelves, feel their heft in my hands, and experience the texture and smell of the pages as I turn them.
As Marcus Tullious Cicero tells us, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
I never want to lose my soul.