Saturday, March 1, 2014

Passing Books Along...

I now work at a new location after applying for and receiving a promotion. I've been there just over a month. There is currently a fund-raising drive going on. One of the things we're doing to raise funds for this most worthy cause is a used book drive. We've all been asked to bring in books.

I knew I could help with that.

I tasked myself with the job of going through our bookshelves and getting rid of books we don't need to keep (and of course having my partner go through them as well, making sure I don't get rid of any of her favorites!)

I used to keep all the books. But I've moved across the country several times, shlepping boxes and boxes of books hither and yon, oftentimes not even unpacking all of them. It got to be too hard. Books are heavy. It was a waste of time and energy to keep all of them. It was hard at first to let books go, but it's gotten easier. It makes it even easier when I think someone else will be able to enjoy and appreciate them.

One way we get rid of books is to pass them onto friends we think might enjoy them. That's fun, having a great book and giving or sending it to someone specific, pretty sure that they will appreciate it.

Another way is that we pass books along is through Bookcrossing. My partner and I have been members of Bookcrossing since before we met (we actually met through Bookcrossing!). Bookcrossing is a website where one can register books with a unique ID #, and then "release" them, so other people can "catch" them, read them and release them again. (You can check it out here: My page there is under can see the books I'm currently reading on my profile.)

The thing is, even with bookcrossing and passing books along to others, they do build up. The shelves felt full. We hadn't really gone through the bookshelves thoroughly since we've moved here, almost 6 years ago. Because even though we pass some books along, books are also coming INto our lives!

It's been said that seeing books on a shelf can be like seeing old friends. And in a way this is true for me. What's also true for me is that many of the books I've kept are reflections of certain times in my life. Books that were touchstones for me at pivotal points. The key word there being were. As I went through the books, I remembered (usually fondly) those times, remembered reading those books, remembered what I was thinking and what was going on in my life.

Jean Shinoda Bolen's books, GODDESSES IN EVERYWOMAN and GODS IN EVERYMAN, brought up the period in my life when I was doing the Myers-Briggs assessment (and anything else I could get my hands on), trying to decipher myself and my relationships. And there was Harriet Lerner's THE DANCE OF ANGER, which I read when I was struggling through an angry period in my life. Also THE ARTIST'S WAY and other excellent books on writing - Natalie Goldberg's WRITING DOWN THE BONES, Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD, Stephen King's ON WRITING, which I read when I was trying to unleash and validate my creativity. A few of these I kept, most of these I let go.

And then there was Bill Bryson's SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING. I love his books anyway, but this one I happened to get right before my mother had a stroke. My brother and I traded off reading it when we were tag-teaming stints in the hospital. I also kept Marilynn Robinson's HOUSEKEEPING, a book I devoured much too quickly when I was in high school, and want to read again, more slowly, to savor and enjoy. I kept TIME AND AGAIN by Jack Finney, another book from high school, recommended by a good friend, though I did pass along two of his books of short stories. Also excellent, but it was time to let them go. Another keeper is Bryson's A WALK IN THE WOODS. Two long-time friends recommended it to me when I was feeling particularly book starved when living in a literary desert - a rural area where there was just one painfully small used bookstore in the entire county.

Sorting through the books was good. A few months ago I went through journals I'd kept for years. Most of which I decided not to keep. Yes, in them were many thoughts and feelings (so many feelings! teenage angst!), but most of them were not all that insightful to my older and hopefully wiser self. They were important for me to write, not important for me to keep. Sorting through books and getting rid of even some of the ones that were pivotal was much the same process for me. I didn't have to keep every reminder of every phase I've gone through.

Having the bookshelves lighter makes me feel lighter too. The used book sale will also be fun, as I may be able to see who selects books I donated!

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