Book me father, I don’t think I’ve sinned

My past life’s come back to haunt me – and I’m enjoying it.

After years of living in places I filled with shelves and shelves and floors full of books, I dematerialized. I sold my house and gave away most of its contents. “If it doesn’t fit in the flight’s overhead compartment I really don’t need it.” One full room [3-1/2 walls] of shelved books: gone. More shelves of books in the bedroom, living room and office: gone. One last collection – on the Celtic Literary Revival and 1916’s Easter Rising: donated to academia, where I’d used them for myself when I was researching and teaching. But it’s better that they’re living with someone who can use them, which a Colorado storage locker couldn’t do.

Sure I picked up more along the way, but I gave them to friends, left them in airplanes and hostels and, last winter, donated my most recent collection to a charity shop when I gave up my apartment lease. I described my grief process then, in Too Many Books, Too Little Time.

And did I mention I became a card-carrying, card-using member of a nearby library last spring? More than just books, they offer wonderful music and drama programs as well.

All was going well until I went to a book launch one afternoon a few weeks ago. The readings were wonderful, the chatter friendly. But the memory I’ll treasure? The sensory one triggered by the touch of a textured cloth binding and the smell of fresh ink on paper. It triggered many, many more memories from my pre-digital analogue past. And how can you make small talk with an author, drink their wine and eat their cheese and not buy their book? And the book was good. I enjoyed it and it now occupies a place of honour on my shelf.

But it sat there, lonely. How can a cloth-bound autographed volume make small talk with those vinyl-covered, chip-enhanced transients out on work-release from the county library?

So. . . I stopped into a bookstore – and bought books. Real books. Four of them [and it took a lot of self-control to limit myself to only four]. With titles I’d never heard of. And only one author I was vaguely aware of, even though I’ve never read any of his work.

And I’ve been back there. Spending more money and bringing home books to read. [And yes, I am reading them.] But you know something? That pile on the bedside table – and those others in different places on the floor – are all graciously and silently waiting for me to get to them in their own good time, using their titles and covers to take advantage of whatever mood may strike me. Not like their cousins from the library, who are more insistent, demanding deadline-driven attention.

It feels good to be back with friends. I feel like I’m re-surrounding myself with soulmates who’ll be around for a while.


7 Comments on “Book me father, I don’t think I’ve sinned

  1. Oh dear. You have just reinforced my weakness. Trying to slim down my library and now I want to go to the bookshop again tomorrow. I agree the library is great but there is no comparison with a much loved hard back volume that is read and reread.

    • And I’m thinking that the only support groups for people like us are the ones that support our habit…

  2. I am a big supporter of libraries, but as you noted, you are then reading on the library’s schedule rather than your own.

    • And having to be careful about coffee cup stains and spills and cracking the binding and you can’t dog-ear the pages or mark in the margins and

  3. Oh, and one more thing – Just a couple of days ago I found myself buying copies of books I know I’ve given away. At this point it’s still cheaper to replace them than to ship them. [Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.]

  4. I have been reading and collecting books since I was old enough to hold them. A few years ago I gave boxes of books to libraries thinking “when I want to visit those books I can go to the library”. Didn’t last, I started stockpiling books again. I will have to give the libraries another go (LOVED libraries when younger). Ah! the smell of my 1st library visit is with me still.

    • Sounds like we share the same disease. Hopefully it’s incurable.

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