Cull the books – lose the memories?

We are a reading family – from my precious hardcovers, to Mark’s paperbacks, the youngest’s board books, the middle-y’s graphic novels, and the oldest’s growing collection of fantasy and mythology based novels.

Late last year, we moved the majority of our books to the main floor. They sit in crappy Ikea shelves not bookcases, but until I can afford built-ins with a rolling ladder, it’ll have to do.  And it really does make us happy to see our books.

There are also books in the playroom.

And books in bins in the basement.

And more books on shelves in the office, in side tables, under beds, in beds, on dressers, on the floor.

So we need to cull the books.  But my books, and I can only speak of my books, clearly mark a passage in time.  They show who I was, I wanted to be, and who I am.

Every major part of my life is reflected in what I was reading.  Or not reading.  Right now, I’m writing for work, and trying to write for myself. And easily distracted by hockey on TV, status updates on social media, and friends preferring shot glasses of bourbon. (Oh, wait, that’s me.) I can’t help but feel that if I get rid of the books, I’ll cull the memories too. And my own story won’t be as interesting to me or to my girls.IMG_5769

There are my Kevin Aucoin makeup artistry coffee table books from when I was practicing to be a make up artist.

The photography coffee table books from when I was practicing with SLR (note the lack of “D”). I wasn’t trying to be a photographer.  I just like to read about things I’m interested in.

Kicking around somewhere might still be a copy of The Artist’s Way that was required reading for my 2nd year theatre course.  Or Mark might have given it to his oldest daughter when she started theatre.

I have a bin of Women’s Studies and Psychology textbooks from when I was taking electives for Midwifery.  And a shelf of very expensive Midwifery textbooks for when I was actually a Midwife-to-be before I became a mama-of-three.

But way before that – decades before, there is the voracious early reader who didn’t like being outdoors. (I never had a lot of picture books – they were way too expensive.  That’s what the library was for.  I loved Ezra Jack Keats.)  By 7 I was reading the Little House on the Prairie series – a box set I can still remember going to the post office with my Dad to pick up.  (And I had read all of the Mary Poppin’s and Oz books too.)   I also read, and re-read The Little Princess. For my 8th birthday my uncle bought me my first Ramona book and a book called The Changeling.  When I was ten my Dad bought me The Girl of the Limberlost for Christmas.  I was (am) the reader who would get fixated on a series or an author (my oldest daughter comes by this legitimately) and so there is everything by LM Montgomery, dozens of Sweet Valley high and VC Andrews books.  I think by now I have ditched most of the Stephen King novels except the cult favourites.  All of these, along with the Hobbit, Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, books based on screenplays, and Shakespeare’s comedies define middle school V.

Highschool V – I can’t for the life of me remember what I was reading in high school.  And I don’t even think there’s evidence of it, having been lost in a cull when I moved out of my parents’ house.

University V read everything my Anne Rice. And bought it all twice –  once in paperback, then in hardcover. Easy to do when you work at a bookstore. I met Anne Rice, she signed my books. And later in life I would argue over whether or not we could name our then unborn daughter Rowan or Merrick.  I lost.  But all three girls still have book-related names. University V also read – and owned -everything anyone recommended so I have a slew of what Mark calls “women’s lit” like Toni Morrison and Jeanette Winterson.  Plus a lot of Canadiana ala Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Timothy Findley ( I adore The Piano Man’s Daughter), and Robertson Davies.

Post-university V read everything.  There are no series here.  Just random books who’s author’s had only the first letter of their last name in common.  Because I would park myself in front of a letter in the fiction section of Indigo and read covers until I found something I wanted to read all of.  A lot of it was about 20-something girls.  Go figure. There are early YA novels my then-boyfriend-now-awesome-husband bought me to read on the plane as I flew in and out of Montreal for work. This would also be the time I started reading the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  And the Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey – not so easily transported to and from work.

There are graphic novels my-awesome-husband bought me to read when I had the attention span of a gnat in between classes and breastfeeding babies. And all the urban fiction I went back to a few years ago because I just wanted to read.  Books by Kelley Armstrong, and Kim Harrison.  I even read the first ten True Blood books – in less than three months.  And the Hunger Games series in less than three weeks.

I have at least a third of my English lit books from university lying around.  though every coupe of years we get rid of more and more of them because they are all free e-books at this point.

Which brings me to this: do I just get rid of all but the ones I truly, deeply, madly love and likely spent a lot of money on hardcover copies of?  And pick up or borrow e-copies of others?  Or do I hold out for converting the playroom into a library?  Or build a climate and humidity controlled addition to my house – not sure where exactly – and store my books there?  And what happens when my girls start buying even more books?  I guess Mark will have get dressed out of his car…we are going to need his closet space and access to the attic for our books.

Oh, and for the record, this doesn’t begin to cover my brief obsession with cook books and chef biographies.  I will cook from Feast and Domestic Goddess always.  And I will have a crush on Gabrielle Hamilton forever.


One comment

  1. Isn’t reading delicious? I just love it. From a small child in Switzerland to raising readers today, it’s been books, books, books most of my life. Until….

    Well, let’s just say living in a two bedroom bungalow full of hockey gear and renovating several times in recent years has significantly reduced our collection of books. Honestly, living a block from the Toronto Public Library has not deterred our love for reading, but I will not, NOT, bring in more books into this house. In fact, I’m getting rid of them. Because…space. And dust. Did I mention dust? No one notices (but everyone is sneezing)…

    So letting go of my dream of having a library in my house has been hard. But not having a library in the home did not deter us from reading.

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