Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why Bother Keeping Books?

When I graduate from library school next year, I plan to pick up everything and move. Already I've begun to take stock of my belongings, and I've decided that most of what I have, I'm OK parting with. This includes all of my furniture, except for my black leather sofa that converts into a full-size bed. I also want to keep my multicolored (but mostly red) vertically striped curtains and my sunburst wall clock. But most importantly, I want to keep my books. All of them.
This is what happens when you run out of room on the bookshelf.
Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/AP via

Having moved quite a few times before, I understand completely what a hassle it is to take books with you. You have to collect enough cardboard boxes for all of them, and you can't fill the boxes with too many books or else you'll make them too heavy for lifting. Then you end up with just as many boxes for your books as you do for your other belongings. In this age of e-books especially, you think, "It would be so much easier if I didn't insist on carting all of these (paper) books around with me." But for me, a house isn't a home without books.

I grew up with a mother who loved to read, which means the house I grew up in contained tall bookshelves filled with books. That's "normal" for me, and it's comforting. So for me, books are as much a part of the home environment as a sofa or an end table, plants on the windowsill, and a teapot on the stove. That's why I keep books. Others keep books with the intent of rereading them, according to Tasha Brandstatter in her BookRiot article "Why Keep Books?"

"Some people think the possibility of rereading is the only justifiable reason for keeping books after you've finished them," says Brandstatter in her article. "I personally am a huge fan of rereading novels because a good book will reveal more of itself every time you pick it up." I have to admit that I generally don't reread the books I own. (Although lately, I find myself wanting to reread Linda McCartney: A Portrait, the biography of Sir Paul's wife that was written by Danny Fields, just to savor the stories of her life as a young rock photographer in 1960s New York.) I'm much more likely to take a book from the shelf to find a particular excerpt, then put it back.

But then there are those books that I hold onto simply because I plan to read them at some point, including Rethinking Camelot by Noam Chomsky and Autobiography of a Bluesman by Taj Mahal. Brandstatter says that one of the books she owns that she plans to read, eventually, is Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisisted, which she bought at a library book sale. "Am I ever going to read that thing, considering I refuse to even watch the movie?" she asks in her article. "Nope. Probably not. But hey, you never know!"

Keeping books for the sheer love of books and keeping them with the intent of reading them sometime in the future are just two reasons why bibliophiles like myself and Brandstatter continue to own what some people in this digital age are starting to look upon as passé. Other reasons include the books that we have were gifts or they are unique in some way: they were signed by the author, they are first editions, or they are no longer in print, for instance. To better understand why people keep books, check out Brandstatter's BookRiot article at THIS LINK.

(Another reason to keep books is to make cool art projects, as seen in the photo above. The little girl is standing amid a massive spiral made up of secondhand and new books. The spiral is an installation created by Brazilian artists Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo for the 2012 aMAZEme Project. The installation was on display in the Clore Ballroom of Royal Festival Hall in London, England, last summer.)

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