I had a great library. I had been collecting books for years, watching proudly as the shelves filled and I had to get more bookcases. Every book that I read shaped my thinking a little, helped me become who I am, and in short, was a part of me. Every time we moved I’d pack up these books, lovingly, one at a time, and remember what it was like to read that particular volume. Every time I’d unpack, I’d go through it all again.
So it might surprise you a little to learn that I recently sold over half my collection. The only ones I didn’t sell are the ones the buyer wouldn’t buy. Isn’t that a little like selling my heart? What could cause a collector to make such a dramatic turn-around?
I was looking at the huge collection one day, remembering how much I liked each book, when it occurred to me that each of those books was an important part of my life at one time, but in reality, I was never going to read most of them again. That thought really disturbed me. If I was never going to read a book again, why did I have it? To impress others with how widely read I was? No. I really don’t want to be the kind of guy who needs to impress others to feel good about himself. To impress myself with the sheer volume of paper? No. Self-deceit is the worst kind of deceit there is. To loan books out to other people who might benefit from them? This sounds good, but it rarely, if ever, happened. Not being able to come up with any good reasons for keeping the books, I decided they had to go.
I averaged two bucks a book, and I gained a lot of shelf space, which was immediately sucked up by lots of other junk (where was all that junk before?). I don’t miss most of the books, other than an occasional awareness that there aren’t as many around as there used to be. In general, I’d encourage you to think long and hard about whatever it is you collect. Do you have a good reason for keeping the collection? Would you be any different without most of your collection? Is there anything to be gained by purging your collection? Be honest.
This post originally appeared in the February 13, 2008, edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.