Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Goodbye, old books

My constantly expanding collection of books has been an increasing problem of late.  As an avid reader, I have always worked under the assumption that books are sacred.  Once brought into the home, a book cannot leave.  It is a record of a point in time, forever connected with what was happening when read.

I was an English major in college, and I still have every single one of the novels, anthologies, and poetry collections from that time.  I also ended up with a Chemistry degree, and every time I look at my Physical Chemistry textbook I remember my curve-busting test performance and fill with happy pride.

I am in a wonderful book club with some of my work colleagues, and just about every book we've read in the last seven years is there.

My medical school textbooks similarly still line the bookshelves.  They are all pretty much out-of-date by now, and it's ridiculous to think that I would leaf through the pages of a ten-year-old book to find guidance for my clinical decision making.  Yet I still cling to them; wouldn't it be great to share them with my future residents in thirty years?

("I know, can you imagine - treating type 2 diabetes with insulin and hepatotoxic pills when it turned out to be so obviously curable?  Ha ha ha!")

Lately, though, my husband has kindly confronted me with the reality that our house cannot continue to comfortably accommodate my ever-expanding book collection.  I came to see that, unless we plan to start replacing furniture with bookshelves (who needs a couch, anyway?), the book-to-living-space balance must tip the other direction.  Some of the books needed to go. 

I struggled to accept this fact for quite a while.  These books were like old friends, reminders of times and events, of feelings and ideas.   I slowly came to realize, however, that these reminders of the past were crowding out the here and now.  Worse, I was relying on those books to serve as visual personality props - a way to show off the wealth of my knowledge and experiences.  The final straw was realizing just how many of those books I would never, ever read again. 

So, over the course of a weekend, I sifted through every book on every shelf in the house.  I realized that I didn't need the books to keep the memories or to display the sum of my personality.   When done, I delivered two bags of long neglected tomes to Half-Price Books.  Handing them over was surprisingly easy in the end; I realized that they would all gain new life in the hands of new readers.

Goodbye, old books, and good luck to you all.


  1. Get rid of books? :O
    My husband offered to enclose the back porch and turn it into a library. Nice as that sounds, I decided that I don't want to sink that kind of money into a house we're not going to retire in. I've been trying to figure out which of my treasures to part with. I guess figuring out which ones I'll never ever read again would be a good start.

  2. When I took my first geology class, my great-uncle showed me his college geology textbook, which was from a time before we knew about plate tectonics!

    (There's also bookmooch.com as well in case you find more books that could be released to the world.)

  3. OK, Dr Jen, tell us how many books you bought while at half price books getting rid of your books. Is it possible to go there and not buy another book or ten? I even buy books there for my waiting room and elsewhere in my office (does that imply how long people are in the waiting room?) Blog on!