I’ve run out of space for my books. And no, that is not the first line of a comedy routine.
I truly have no more shelf space left for additions to my addiction. It’s quite the predicament, for me. What to do, what to do?
This isn’t the first time I’m faced with difficult choices, with culling friends and teachers from my life, and I know it to be a long arduous process rife with regrets and reservations. When we downsized after the last of my five children went off to college, I sorted through a collection of hundreds of books, a painstaking progression that took weeks and required such emotional stamina that it sapped me.
That cut, in comparison, was hardly deep. I had college textbooks so outdated that I read parts of them aloud to a friend for a good laugh. Naturally those were easy to get rid of. So were many of the picture and chapter books that I distributed among those who wanted them, namely my kids whose reading fluency had been perfected with nightly visits to those pages. And the cookbooks I hadn’t opened in decades? They, too, were stacked in the give-away boxes.
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What survived that bloodbath eventually moved to beautiful shelving created just for the occasion by The Hubby. But now, four years and several more dozen books later, I must winnow the collection again. My books have spilled out from their home and are squatting in unlikely places, refugees on my nightstand, under my desk, by the bathroom scale, and anywhere and everywhere I discover a dry spot.
If you’re not a book lover, you’re probably scratching your head unable to understand the pain of divorce, the anguish of separation. How to explain that each book has brought a special light into my life and sending one or many away is like extinguishing a small but inspiring flame?
Friends and family insist I invest in an e-reader, insinuating that something is not quite right with my allegiance to tradition. I’m accustomed to their condescending tone. As the only one in my family attached to the written word, I’ve always been regarded as a teensy bit eccentric by relatives who prefer the perfect symmetry of numbers. That peculiarity has only grown with age and now my avid reading — fiction mostly, though I indulge in investment and business tomes as well — has become as much solace as entertainment.
It’s difficult to explain how, though I’m committed to my keyboard and tethered to my smartphone, overly involved with social media and devoted to the easy magic of the internet, I find reading an entire book on a hand-held screen incomprehensible. A bound book possesses a special glory. You can feel it, smell it, listen to the rustle of a page as you turn it.
Still, this ardor doesn’t solve my problem. I’ve run out of space for my books.
So I plod shelf by shelf, trying hard to be dispassionate in my selection. I shuffle books around. I stack them vertically and then horizontally. Next I squeeze them every which way I can. But all for naught. The wood is neither magical nor miraculous in its give.
Finally I pile the books on the floor in groups: the forever-loves separated from the call-you-maybes and the I-probably-won’t-miss-yous. There they remain in capitulation.
Now I’m stuck in this beautiful mess, perfumed by an intellectual mustiness, drenched in colorful covers, lullabied by lovely first sentences and emboldened by powerful closing statements. Surrounded by words, words, words.