Took another load of books to Half Price books today – another Ikea bag full, plus three boxes worth. And as I looked at them there on the counter, I couldn’t help thinking about what it would be like when we meet people in our new city, invite them over to our new place… a place that won’t have all that many books in it.
What do my books say about me? And who’s listening to them?
I’m facing this question again and again as I go through my books. I once had a pretty wide collection of titles related to my major, even though I don’t work in my field; I liked knowing I had an impressive collection, and I liked showing it off. I was forced to admit that I use “has impressive book collection” as an identity marker for myself.
Instead of keeping books that speak to other people, I’m trying to only keep books that speak to me. I narrowed my poetry focus to a single poet instead of a shelf full of Bay Area poets, just keeping the books that are (a) my favorites and, conveniently, (b) the hardest to replace. My once-large collection of religious texts has been whittled down to the half-dozen I actually reference regularly. And I’m still going through the graphic novels…
I do sometimes envy people with large, impressive libraries, but right now I’m not in a place where it’s practical for me to have one, so if people want to judge my knowledge based on my bookshelves, I’ll just have to live with it. Ultimately, that’s probably not the kind of person whose opinion I want to worry about.