One of the first things I do at the start of every move is box up the contents of two large bookshelves. They’re the “quick hit” to get the process started and they’re not going to be something I can’t live without for the month or so it’s going to take me to get them unboxed and back into their proper place. As part of my current “ask the blogger” segment, someone asked what the books were and why I’d bothered hauling them around across 10,000 road miles and 15 years. There’s a story there, but I’m not sure it’s a particularly interesting one.
I’ve never counted the exact number of physical books I still have – at 13 boxes I’d guess somewhere in the neighborhood of 175-200. Measured by weight it’s got to be something on the order of 3,729 metric tonnes. Since I’ve loved books since long before the Kindle came along, they’re something I’ve acquired over a lifetime of reading. I’ve purged the collection before many moves and seem to have it down to a core group that I just can’t bring myself to part with. They’re mostly biographies and histories – covering everything from Cicero to the Iraq War. There’s a much smaller mix of historical fiction and the occasional “classic” a la Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, and 1984.
As someone pointed out there are these buildings called libraries where large volumes of books live permenantly. Theoretically I should love libraries, but I’ve always had a hard time with the idea of giving a book back once I was done with it, especially the once I’ve found interesting or meaningful. The habit has gotten easier since the rise of the e-reader, but that doesn’t do anything about the stack of bound paper I already have.
I have a tendency to hold on to them for the usual reasons – maybe I’ll need to reference them some day (which I actually have done for more than a few blog posts and while I was working on my last short story). In all likelihood I know the only time most titles will ever leave the shelf is the next time I move. Still, I like the idea of having them. I like the way they look on the shelf. I like the way a room full of books smells. I like the way they feel in my hand.
Plus there’s the one I never talk about – the fact that the furniture has changed, the clothes of changed, the critters I have around change, the locations change, but the books stay the same. Maybe they’re the touchstone; the hearth at the center of what whatever house I happen to be in whenever I get where I’m going.