Since the holiday season is a time of excess, I figured it would be a good idea for me to do some downsizing around my apartment- you know, get rid of some stuff that I don’t need in order to make room for all the inevitable new stuff I don’t need that I’ll be getting for Christmas.
If you know me or read this blog at all, you might know that I’m a huge geek in the sense that I’m obsessed with books. Half Price Books is like heaven on earth to me- I can spend hours in there, and I’m like a kid in a candy store in any other used book shop or thrift store that has a book section. I particularly like used books- there’s just something so awesome about the look, feel, and smell of a broken-in book that has obviously been loved by someone else.
This is a dangerous habit, though, because I’m constantly finding books I want to read for cheap prices that seem too good to pass up. Even at half price, it adds up over time. Even though I don’t spend as much as I would if I were addicted to buying brand new books from Barnes & Noble, it’s still money I don’t need to be spending when I have a brand new, never-before-used library card and an already-full bookshelf with tons of books I have yet to open at all.
The main part of my winter downsizing will be to clean out this bookshelf, which is no easy task. How do I decide which books are expendable and which are irreplaceable in my collection? I have books from high school that I still haven’t read that should be a given for the ‘discard’ box, but hey- I might want to read Uncle Tom’s Cabin someday! Isn’t that a book that everyone should read? And won’t I feel even more guilty that, not only did I give up on it after 20 pages in high school, but I then got rid of it even though it was the second best-selling book of the 19th century, second only to the Bible?
Do you see where the conflict comes in here?! This is like pulling teeth for me. Am I ever going to read Dubliners or The Great Gatsby again? Probably not, but I need some classic literature on my shelf. Never once have I been in the mood to dig in to Beloved or Tar Baby, but since my favorite English professor loves Toni Morrison, I’ve convinced myself that I could love her, too. I doubt I’ll enjoy No Country For Old Men if I ever get around to reading it, but I need it in case I ever decide to pick up my research on Cormac McCarthy…right?
There was only brief hesitation about getting rid of the two Shakespeares that survived the last bookshelf purge (As You Like It and The Taming of the Shrew), and even briefer hesitation to throw out Gulliver’s Travels and The Canterbury Tales. When I’m a famous, well-respected, oft-quoted, world-renowned literary critic someday, I’ll probably lament getting rid of such influential works, but until then they’re taking up precious bookshelf space that could be housing more Vonnegut novels.
I have no qualms whatsoever about getting rid of that Chelsea Handler book that I tried to read and decided I didn’t like after about ten pages. There was contemplation about Tess of the D’Urbervilles (I HIGHLY DOUBT I’ll never read it again, but I did write about it in college, and you never know when I might want to go back and rework an old essay, okay?!) and an internal struggle about The Hours (I don’t think I liked that book, but maybe now that I know stuff about Virginia Woolf I might appreciate it more after a second read…?) and genuine surprise when I realized I still owned Brokeback Mountain.
In the end, I’m extremely proud of myself for being able to let go of any of them. But I figure that for every one one I get rid of, it justifies buying a new one to take its spot on the shelf…right?
Notice how Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Beloved aren’t in there, though? I know…I have a problem.