A Life in Pages

I woke up two weeks ago on Sunday morning feeling like I needed to clean out my bookshelves.

Most of you are probably nodding your head. A few of you, those who know me in real life, or worse yet, have been to my house, are recoiling in horror.

Let me try and give you some perspective. Mr. Spit and I have a rider on our home insurance to cover our books in case of fire and flood. We have library software. Not enough perspective? People call us when they can’t find a book. You would be surprised how many times we have been able to help. Still not enough? I have 20 copies of the Bible in various translations – I feel like I should tell you – my degree isn’t in theology.

You can go through an almost entire life as you sort through books. The books that were given to you as gifts (I kept those.) The book you picked up at the second hand sale, the book you picked up because you needed a reference. I have books from when I was a youth pastor, I have books on marriage from our early days when we were trying to sort things out. I have 15  books on becoming a manager. I have excel reference books for the last 3 editions of excel. I have grammar books, project management books. Text books from University.

The collected works of Ken Follet? Got ’em. All of the Tom Clancy books? Check. The entire Lord Peter Wimsey series? Present. Every Nancy Drew book from the second edition? Those are on the top left shelf in the dinning room. I collected them as a little girl.

Books were and are a form of security for me. All of that knowledge, laid out in straightforward format, in black and white, organized into a table of contents and indexed in the back. All of those adventures, some of my oldest friends, waiting for me on page 1, ready to pick up, where we left off.

My default response is to look for a book. I am never without a book in my briefcase, in my purse.

I have a relationship with books. A complex and multifaceted one to be sure, but a relationship. And on Sunday morning I started to pile books on my dinning room table. Some were easy – books left over from my very fundamentalist Christian days were pulled off the shelf with nothing more than a “Wow! Has my attitude ever changed on that!”. Some of the piles, the books about perinatal demise, they came harder. A few of those stayed – not because I needed them but because I will have them when someone else does.

The books Mr. Spit bought on being a dad? I pulled them off the shelf and held them to my chest, closing my eyes and wincing. The text book from an economics course that I flunked? It went on the pile because I’m never taking that course again. The Roget’s Thesaurus from 1991 that is in the old format (non alphabetized): I mourned that we no longer read thesauri and dictionaries, mostly because while a computer and website is faster, you will never run across a word you haven’t seen before. So much ephemeral knowledge is lost.

Some of it is hard. My Nancy Drew’s, Mr. Spit’s set of Children’s Bible Stories – we have no need of them and yet we hang on to them. I simply don’t know what to do with them.

I have no idea how many books this is. The shelves look more empty. I have returned things to a state where I don’t have to double shelve books, I can fit them in using only one row, and that’s something.

Mostly, as I am getting ready to box things up, I am sorting through things and I am thinking that I used to believe that I needed that knowledge. I needed to read the book on Christianity and Capitalism, so that I would be smart. Now? I know that I need to know a lot less than I ever dreamed of.

On that note – I have all of the Nancy Drew books in the yellow binding. All of them from the Secret in the Old Clock to the end of the series. I collected them second hand when I was a little girl. I have no need of them and no one to pass them on to. If you or a little girl you know would like them, please send me a note, and we can arrange shipping. I should like them to go to a new home and find a new person to have adventures with.

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8 Responses to A Life in Pages

  1. a says:

    I don’t have quite as big a collection, but my husband complains about my books all the time. Most of them are sentimental and I’ve probably never really read them – the set of classics my grandfather bought for my mom and her sisters, the coffee table/art books of my aunt’s that populated the bookshelves around the fireplace in my grandparents’ home. But some are sentimental and useful – Charles Addams’ take on Mother Goose, the bird guides that my aunts used to use on their back porch. They’re all staying!

    I wish I knew if my daughter were going to be a read for pleasure type – then I would be campaigning for your books. I can’t get a fixed idea if she’s reading because I encourage her or because she wants to. So put me on the bottom of the list, I suppose…there are probably worthier candidates out there.

  2. I would LOVE the nancy drew books for both monkey & bear. Boys do not have enough adventure books with girls as the lead. Monkey shall learn that heros are boys and girls. Well, bear will have another set of books with a spunky gal (Anne of green gables being the first).

  3. GeekChic says:

    When I was a kid our house was called “the library” because other kids (or their parents) would ask my Dad and I if we had a book on a topic before heading to the real public library. We had lending cards to keep track of things.

    My Dad’s house is still a library supplemented by a Kindle) – mine is but a small branch location. I actually can’t remember either of us giving away many books.

  4. Andie says:

    We are sisters in the book world! Although I don’t have the same collections you mentioned – though I do have lots of Georgette Heyer, John Wyndham, and many children’s books (so many are favourites … I regularly re-read the Prydain chronicles and the chronicles of Narnia, Little House on the Prairie, Lucy Maud Montgomery etc.) And how interesting it is to go through my collection of religious books …. I have that same experience of finding some valuable and others more of a ‘hmm – not so much now.’ I also have at least 15 Bibles, including one in Slovak and one in French, and several that are the small version (would fit in a purse) with only the New Testament and Psalm – with underlining from when they were my Grandpa’s.

    Just idle curiosity – are the Children’s Bible stories that illustrated 10 volume set, OT to NT, with beautiful pictures? My MIL found a set like that at a garage sale, but in French, and she got them for us as our kids go to French school. I had looked at buying them new (in English) but they were in the 100’s of dollars.

    And my heart breaks for you a bit as you hold in your hand, not just the books but the dreams and hopes and the excitement of waiting for Gabriel – and the suffering when you said goodbye. Books can be friends, companions, witnesses … I really find it hard to part with them. I like the kobo but there are some I just really want to have as real books.

    I had bought something like 60 Nancy Drew books at a garage sale when I was about 12 or so? and thoroughly enjoyed them …. but I did pass on that collection somewhere along the way. I remember some great ND summers 🙂

  5. Mr. Spit says:

    @Andie blue cover with art – I think (without checking) that it is similar to what you describe.

    Books multiply seemingly without our help in this house. When we consolidated 4 Billy bookshelves into the new, built-in bookshelf, we thought we would have space to spare. Turns out we were wrong. Though I might have built a nice shelf, couldn’t warp space and time to fit more stuff into the same volume of space.

  6. debby says:

    How very generous your heart is!

  7. Erica says:

    I did something similar before our last move. After years of working at a book store (employee discount!) I had a lot of books I knew I wouldn’t read again. I kept mostly the ones I know I’ll re-read (which is still a lot of books).

    You kept the Peter Wimsey books, yes? Yes?!

  8. loribeth says:

    I desperately need to cull some of our books… but it’s hard to even think about it — both from the size of the task (!) & the difficulty of giving up books. We have three large & one narrow Billy bookcases from IKEA and one metal shelving unit, crammed with books (including books stacked in front of the ones shelved) in the basement (I moved them there from the second storey after listening to the floor creak one too many nights for comfort…) We also have a couple of Rubbermaid bins full plus at least half a dozen towering stacks piled up on the floor in the basement & in our bedroom. (Plus another Billy bookcase in our office, which is mostly filled with photo albums — I am too afraid of possible flooding to put those in the basement).

    I went through a box of my old books when I was visiting my parents last summer (most of them from my teen & university years — there are many more lurking in the crawl space, including the Nancy Drews). I bit the bullet & told my mother she could put most of them in the garage sale. But there were a few I saved.

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