By now, most of us bibliophiles are well aware of Marie Kondo’s admonition that we ought to declutter our homes by purging them of excessive “stuff,” books included. Her notion is that you should pick up each item in your home, hold it to your breast, and if it doesn’t “spark joy,” then you should toss it.
But as my wife Robin (who would be thrilled if I jettisoned some of my possessions) loves to note, the problem with this is that virtually everything in our home sparks joy in me, so the Marie Kondo method is pretty much useless around here.
And this is especially true of my books.
I first started collecting books as a child, when my generally frugal parents announced that they’d buy all the books for me that I wanted, as long as I read them. So began my collection of horse books. Then science fiction, then mysteries.
The collection quickly grew once I started college as an English literature major, and even more so between college and law school when I worked at a used bookstore where employees were given a fifty percent discount on all the inventory.
Over the years I have jettisoned some of my books. But not many. Most of my casebooks from law school are now gone, as are a few books from college I know I’ll never want to read again. But even when I discover on my bookshelves an old, completely out-of-date textbook covered in mold, I find it excruciatingly difficult to let it go.
So why is this?
It’s because books bring me enormous comfort and solace. I love the feeling of being surrounded by bookshelves. I love staring at the titles, remembering where I was when I discovered a particular volume and the feelings I experienced as I first read through it.
I love knowing that I can always pick up my old copy of The Fellowship of the Ring and be transported back to age six when my father first read the trilogy to us kids. Or flip through the pages of Gaudy Night and relive my year in Oxford as a teenager when I had a mad crush on Lord Peter Wimsey.
I adore the feel of the paper on my fingers, the elaborate designs of the dust covers, the smell of new ink or old dust when you open up a book.
Books are a constant, always there for me: their stories of love, murder, and human angst; their tables of verb conjugations; their explanations of musical harmony and geologic formations; their recipes for sauce normande and chicken cacciatore.
Books are my forever friends.
Oh yeah, and I have quite a few LPs, as well…
Readers: Do you have a lot of books? Is it hard for you to get rid of them?