The missing piece of my collection of items from my work desk that needed to be archived were two shopping bags of books. I knew it would be challenging to cull through them. I have been musing on why books mean so much. Why are books such a marker of our identity? I have been becoming the kind of person who uses the public library as her personal book collection, so I did a little research and found a couple of interesting links.
A blogger named Jill Prouty wrote about how books are like her autobiography and she used a JFK quote to illustrate this: “My mother died surrounded by her friends and her family and her books, and the people and the things that she loved. She did it in her own way, and on her own terms, and we all feel lucky for that.” Jill also wants to die surrounded by her books.
I also found an online discussion thread between those who are addicted to keeping all books and those who recycle. I thought the person who summed it up best said, “My books are emotional landmarks for certain periods in my life.” You cannot pick up a book you have owned for years and not be transported back to that place and time. Books also say a lot about you. When Tom and I first merged our collections we realized we both had a copy of “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” that neither of us had ever been able to finish.
We have 700 square feet of dwelling space and one bookshelf. That bookshelf is already full. It’s full of books that have been collected by both Tom and I (a few of Melody’s have been sneaking in there as well). I would love to have a house with one entire wall dedicated to books. I also love built-in bookshelves that allow enough space for occasional sculptural objects mixed in (sigh). But for now we have six 3 foot wide shelves to work with, and something’s gotta give.
Luckily I was able to make three piles (I think the word “piles” is going to appear a lot in this blog). The first was things to recycle. I have a lot of outdated design collections and printing manuals that are now destined to be turned into egg cartons. The second are books that I keep thinking I will need to reference and never do. They are headed for Friends of the Library, I hope – they have standards. The last few books that I could not part with went into space that Tom and I managed to create by selecting a few outdated texts from the shelves.
What do the lucky few have in common? They are beautiful summaries of artwork that I love. Advertising, design, maps, and a couple of art magazines that I bought when I was living in New York. No matter when I look at them, they are timeless classics that make me hold my breath and slowly run my fingers across the page. That’s love worth keeping in my life.