Books Begone

by Lisa Rosen on August 9, 2011

We had an immensely successful weekend here at Casa Rosen, aka Declutter Central.

Lee dragged 18 boxes of books down from the attic.  I went through them (I’m not sure to what end, but I did it), and now they’re gone.

18 boxes.  I’m estimating they averaged about 30 books each.  That’s roughly 540 books.  That’s a lot of books.*

Exactly half the boxes contained my books from graduate school (it takes a lot of reading to get a PhD in English), and the other half were books the children have outgrown.  By “went through them,” I mean I flipped through each box, glancing at the titles, and letting each strong wave of memories wash over me.  Interestingly, the books from my grad school years were the more nostalgic–I guess maybe that part of my life seems further away, or maybe I just miss that version of myself more.  I’m not sure.

But I let it all go.  The literary criticism, the critical theory, the grammar and composition textbooks and their accompanying instructor’s manuals, the little-known novels from long-forgotten women documenting rural Southern life a hundred years ago, the plays and poetry and short stories–I boxed it all right back up again and sent it out the door.  I even threw away an unbound copy of my dissertation.  Just . . . tossed it.

I hung on to one thing from those eight boxes:  a copy of The Hard-Boiled Virgin, by Frances Newman, the subject of my Master’s thesis.  I’m not sure why it has such a sentimental pull on me, but I couldn’t quite turn it loose. I told myself it was because the book was so hard to come by to begin with, but I don’t think that’s really it.  I think I just felt weird about letting go of every single one of those books.

The children’s books were easier–we really, really don’t need those.   Delaney reads exclusively on her Kindle, and Toby reads exclusively online, so boxes full of books are truly obsolete in every way.  Besides, they’ll actually be useful to the families we gave them too (as opposed to Old English textbooks and Victorian poetry anthologies).  Box ’em up, shove ’em out.

From that second batch of boxes, I pulled out three coral reef ID books, in hopes that we get to go scuba-diving again sometime.  That’s it.

It’s amazing how long it took us to get around to doing that one little task.  It wasn’t nearly as daunting as it seemed, once we got into it.  Lee will tell you it was hard work carrying all those boxes down two flights of stairs, but for my part, it was just a matter of being a little ruthless, and very sensible.

Because you know what?  Books that have been boxed up in the attic, sight unseen, for ten years?  I just don’t need them, not even a little bit.

*That was just the books in the attic.  There are bookshelves in almost every room in our house–all of which still have to be purged.  There’s a reason I go by bookwoman.

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