An unexpected turn in luck has led to me culling many of the books on my shelves, and forced me to consider why that might not be a bad thing.
Friday morning I woke up in my bedroom for the first time in over a week, to the sight of splotches of dusty blue paint bleeding through the chestnut-colored walls, all around the the room. I’m not sure when the former coat of paint started to reemerge, or how I just noticed it, but with each day new brush strokes have appeared and I’m very ready to repaint the room.
Being in the unfortunate position of having to empty out all my belongings from the room, ahead of painting the walls this Saturday, does give me the chance to reorganize the books on my shelves and in closet crates, and cull a substantial portion of my library. I haven’t bothered with culling books since my first year of high school, when I started hoarding them.
The reasons to cull are many. In my library there are duplicates; worn-out, functionally unusable copies; poorly edited anthologies and other dreadful college texts; genres I’ve stopped enjoying; authors I no longer admire; titles I found disappointing; and other kinds of books I’ll never read again. In theory I don’t mind parting with any of these, and I in fact will be glad to get rid of many of them.
But, as I sort through crates of books, it feels hard to toss many of them toward the donate pile. Dog-earred paperbacks of Vonnegut and King novels remind me of my teen years, when I was on the cusp of becoming a lifelong reader. Each of the copies I own of Giovanni’s Room and To the Lighthouse, two of my favorite books, makes me think of the person I was with the day I bought it and the time we shared. Even the undergrad anthologies seem like they could be helpful, though I know they won’t actually be of use.
All this amounts to me thinking of my personal library as a kind of journal, and culling substantial parts of it at first feels like tearing out sections recording where I’ve been and where I want to go. In spite of all that, the culling process becomes easier with each book, I’m finding, until it even speeds out of control.