I spent this weekend completely reorganizing my bookshelves. I have a lot of books, mostly thanks to growing up in an academic household (my parents are professors) and of course because of my English degree. I also have a bit of a book obsession. I’ve acquired books over the years by purchasing them on a whim, and I often receive books as gifts for birthdays and holidays.
Today’s reorganizing inevitably turned into a bit of a purge. Overall, I’m happy to donate books that I no longer want or need, and like to think of their future owners and the joy they might get out of them. But still, getting rid of books is painful. Cycling through my copies of classics and modern masterpieces, and admitting to myself that I will probably never read certain books again sucks, but has to be done. I don’t need five copies of Jane Eyre or The Importance of Being Ernest. Nor do I need three copies of Oliver Twist (HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?!) Still, every time I selected a book to give away, even if it was a duplicate, it felt like giving away a little piece of myself.
My books come with memories. Most of my current book collection was acquired during my university years. I either purchased them for my courses, as a means of procrastination, or rescued them from my Dad’s bookshelf when he partook in a purge of his own. When I look at the books I read in university I remember the year I read them and the kind of person I was then, what my hopes and dreams were, what it meant to me, how that particular book may have changed my outlook.
Choosing how to organize my books was surprisingly overwhelming. Do I organize by genre? literary era? year published? In the end I divided my books into five categories: fiction, poetry/plays, non-fiction, French books, reference books, and sentimental/miscellaneous books. I was pleased to see that more than half of my book collection is still fiction, even though I’ve been reading a lot of non-fiction for the past few years.
There’s a part of me that wants to go through my bookshelf, one book at a time and read/re-read each book in full until I get through all of them. Alas, that is much easier said than done. It’s difficult to read Defoe on my own time and remain interested, but I’ll still never get rid of my copy of Robinson Crusoe.
Books are funny that way. They take hold of you.