I’ve just moved home. That in itself might be enough to fill some with dread; the thought of moving, packing your life and its contents in to boxes and transferring it all to another place is a little daunting.
But imagine: if you’re a reader; a book person, the reality is, moving house will always be more difficult with the added requirement of a book moving lorry! So I couldn’t really ignore the fact I needed to make some space and cull my book collection. I’m used to culls; as a school librarian, I’ve often gone through book stock and weeded out the old, out of date or unused books taking up valuable shelf space. But it’s not quite the same when you’re going through your own books. You tend not to have a collection policy driven by curriculum and budgets (well maybe budgets sometimes….!).
So how do you manage your own personal book collection? I knew I’d have to get rid of some books that was a fact, but which ones? How to differentiate between keeping something I actually needed versus something I wanted versus something I loved? Why do we keep books we’ve read? I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely a re-reader and have many books I couldn’t possibly part with because I’ve read them so many times they’re a part of who I am. And sometimes such is their sentimental value you couldn’t imagine your bookshelf without them.
As I went through the piles of books I own, there were some I’d literally had all my life. Books from my childhood – old favourites like Winnie the Pooh, Enid Blyton, Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, The Garden Gang. Keep.
Then books belonging to my children when they were young – Thomas the Tank Engine, Mr Men, You Choose and some of those random books someone once gave them which they decided was their absolute favourite but you couldn’t stand – especially when you had to read it a million times! Keep of course. A beautiful collection of classics given to me by my father – about 20 leather bound books – well keep them obviously. So far, so good….hmmm, about ten boxes later full of books to transport (and you can’t overfill boxes of books or you can’t lift them!).
I will admit that when a book is presented truly beautifully then yes, I will keep it because it looks nice! Call me shallow, but I’m a sucker for beautiful illustrations, book jackets and brilliant designs. They always tend to be the really massive, heavy and totally awkward-to-pack books – one per box..! One of the most random books I decided to keep was a big book about the Millenium Dome which I used when I wrote my dissertation at University. Do I want to read it again? No, but I can’t get rid of it – it reminds me of perseverance!
Childhood links aside, why else do we keep books we’ve read? I discovered that there were quite a few I could donate to charity without feeling too sad. Even though I’d enjoyed them, I knew I’d never read them again and whilst they were important to me at the time, I’m a different person now so I don’t need them anymore. Or maybe they weren’t a significant read? Sometimes a book comes along at a certain time of your life and such is its significance, you connect with it so totally, it becomes part of your memory in the same way that human experiences do. The story is inextricably linked to that time in your life, and forever will be. It’s not necessarily award winning or literary genius, but just something that impacts on your soul. Or such is the image it creates in your mind you escape in your imagination to somewhere you never dreamed of and you have to keep the book that took you there. Sometimes the emotional response a book engenders is so heart-warming, so funny, or so tear inducing you want to hold on to that emotion forever, even if it’s sad. These are ones to keep. And of course, sometimes a book is significant because it reminds you of a person who has been important in your life – a role model, a loved one, a teacher or a friend.
And then there’s the books that sit in the TBR pile – books you’ve got you’ve always wanted to read but not quite found the time. I’ve loads of them. So they have to stay. I’ve also got the many books I use for the travelling book case and Bookchat. These are really important to help the children I speak to discover a love for reading.
Books are a reflection of a person’s soul. What I might love, you might hate. Or we might both be able to share the same feeling of joy and connection through a particular story. That’s what I love about reading.
I did manage to clear some space and felt a bit sad for about five minutes – I then realised that the best thing about have a book clear out…. once you’ve done it you’ve got shelf space for lots of lovely new books!!!