I’m taking a hiatus from writing my graduation saga in order to write about another momentous event:
I have cleaned out my bookshelf and donated one hundred of my babies to my old K-8 school library.
My bookshelf is a giant, unvarnished, red-brown thing, looming over all of the other furniture in my bedroom at home. I’ve had it since I was about eleven years old, when my grandparents, knowing my tendency to stash overflowing books in piles around my room, got it for me for Christmas. The bookshelf was initially supposed to be hidden in the detached garage. Grandpa had written a clever poem which was meant to lead me to its location. Unfortunately though, Christmas morning dawned especially cold that year, and my parents thus decided to spare me the traipse outside. The bookshelf waited beside the Christmas tree instead.
For years, this bookshelf has been large enough to hold all of my books. Sure, there’s some double layering going on. Sure, when I ran out of room to arrange spines vertically, I stacked more horizontally on top of the vertical. But I don’t especially mind having a packed bookshelf: I have a system of arrangement, and I do, contrary to my family’s belief, generally know which titles I own and which I don’t own (and how to find them). Plus, a packed bookshelf implies literary affiliations. I feel proud and cozy and like an English major when I gaze upon it.
Today, however, when standing in front of the dear thing, trying to decide what to read next, I tipped back a few titles to peek at the ones behind. And some of the ones behind, I realized, I hadn’t seen in a while. And I hadn’t missed them.
I decided it was time to pare the collection down.
I have long thought that if an eleven-year-old girl in possession of familiar bookworm tendencies were to stop me on the street and ask me for a suggestion regarding what she should read next, I would undoubtably pile all of my Gail Carson Levines, my American Girls, my Nancy Drews into her hands. I would happily pass my books off to someone who I knew would enjoy them as I had. Why, though, was I sitting like a miser on a mountain, hoarding books I had long outgrown, waiting for the right young prodigy to come along and ask for them? Surely it would be better to put the books in a library, where they could be paged through and jam-smeared by hundreds.
I quickly had all my books off my shelves and into piles: Classics; Popular But Still Quality; Popular; Teen Fiction I Still Love; Short Stories, Poems, Plays; Reference; Series; Children’s With Sentimental Value (Little House, Betsy-Tacy, Charlotte’s Web); and Donate.
I dusted the empty shelves, and then slowly started refilling them. I moved my most beloveds to the top, and–vainly–put the classics front and center. I pulled out the books I plan to attempt this summer and stacked them separately, for easy access. I bagged up the “Donates,” including A Series of Unfortunate Events. Perhaps the ban has been lifted since I left middle school?
Mom (a teacher at my old school) placed the bags in her van. While I’m a little ashamed that it’s taken me so long to pass all of those books on, I’m glad it’s finally happened.