Buried in books. Utterly and happily buried in books.
Until recently, the above picture could have captured my ideal indoor happy place. Granted, outdoors is only different by way of tree house or old English Cottage Garden setting but you get the idea.
I. Love. Books. The texture, the smell, the sound of pages turning in a room so quiet only a ticking clock is heard… New books smell exciting and full of new adventure but the musty smell of an old book (I have a few printed over a century ago) is my favorite.
I love to troll the book bins at thrift and resale stores. At yard sales, I always go for the books first.
But books have a problem. They take up space. Unfortunately, mine is presently limited and being buried in books is no longer ideal… or even mildly pleasant.
I made a command decision this morning… I need to get most of the books out of the house. 900 sg ft, 5 people and several cats and large dogs is crowded. Even without furniture, necesssities and our varied collections of Important Things, this is a small living space by First World American standards. For me it feels more crowded by the day.
I tend to put living beings above possessions so it was inevitable I’d have to make a decision about our collection of 1000+ books, boxes of pattern and craft magazines and pattern leaflets.
As a first step, I’m downloading free classic books and boxing up their print counterparts. 2/3 of one of the larger rooms in the house has the books we chose not to unpack but which I couldn’t face leaving in storage. The room can’t be a bedroom but it can and should be utilized for something more productive than a place to toss things without a home.
We’ll deal with that space this summer, I hope… but right now I’m facing a box of several dozen well read and beloved classic books which are now in digital files on my e-reader account. All taken from the handmade, hardwood bookcase at my slightly less crowded bedside.
I can’t seem to convince myself to take them to a resale shop. They’re mostly worn paperbacks and would have little trade in value. Even the thrift store is a hard sell for me.
These particular books are all part of Top 100 Must Read/Most Banned books lists and I’ve painstakingly collected them since a house fire in ’91 took most of our material belongings.
I’ve considered upcycling the books into any one of of the hundreds of items I’ve seen under the title “Book Art” but there are members of my family who would find this every bit as offensive as a religious icon in a beaker of urine. My elder son went so far as to hint at matricide If I took a jigsaw to another book.
Maybe he’d be okay with book folding… but that’s a little off point.
Honestly, it’s painful giving up books. I’ve loved books for as far back as my memory can take me. Some of my earliest memories are sitting in my room at maybe 3 years old, imagining the stories behind the illustrations in my favorite book.
This is a copy I found in a Goodwill outlet bin. I think I stood there and cried. I’ve only been searching for it for 30 years.
I can remember my elder, teenaged sister reading to me before bed and being only slightly disappointed the stories of Cinderella and other fairy tales didn’t match my imaginings. In truth, the words read by my sister were infinitely more magical, made more so by the person who read them.
By kindergarten, I was a little driven to learn to read. As driven as a small for her age, hyperactive, super ball of a child could be. When my classmates were playing outside at recess, I’d be standing by the merry-go-round with a stick, practicing my letters in the pea gravel and sand.
I can’t remember specifically which Dr. Seuss book it was the first time I read a whole book aloud… but remember Mum, Dad and some of my 7 (at the time) siblings seated around the upstairs family room, listening with what my little ego knew was rapt attention.
I certainly remember their praise… it’s probably the reason I spent my entire school career proud of being the single highest level reader in my age group. I was always first to raise their hand when there was an opportunity to read aloud in class.
But that was only a side obsession.
The true obsession was the books. Those magical rectangles of chipboard, paper, and ink transported me to an endless series of worlds. From Little Golden Books, Dr. Seuss Early Readers to Beatrix Potter and story collections brought over from my sister’s early childhood in England.
Oh, those British childrens stories were my favorites. Full of talking hedgehogs, fairies, gnomes and exotic sounding toys like conkers.
I went so far as to search the woods behind our Northern Virginia home for what I imagined was a horse chestnut tree, just to try to bring those stories to life. The closest I got to a conker was a clumsily tied knot around a hickory nut… but for an afternoon, my imagination carried me across the Atlantic to a country where such wonders were real.
To this day, I still search bookstores for that particular collection… something which is squee worthy beyond all imaginings.
But… Alas, more books, even the book of my childhood dreams, is the last thing I need right now.
Since the long ago fire, I’ve only rarely taken books permanently from our collection. On those occasions, the books were falling apart, being given as gifts or duplicates I found when I put the entire collection into library worthy order.
The books in this house range from toddler board books on up to the Collected Works of Shakespeare (which I read for fun between Judy Bloom books in middle school) to pretty much cover every favorite of every stage of my life and the lives of my kids and grand kids. It’s an ever growing history. Every book comes with a story not born within its pages. I could pull any book and tell you why it matters. Sometimes in 300 words or less.
I still have dreams of one day building a small, dedicated library on our few acres of land. We certainly have building foundations enough to choose from.
Look, I’d be happy for enough space to do this right now.
But while those dreams remain tucked in my imagination and a Pinterest board dedicated to book friendly design, it’s time to do some… *gags* letting go… even if said letting go means piling everything into our only half-filled mini-storage unit until said dreams come true or we die… leaving the kids to sort out our thousands of “grown up” security items, just as we’re presently sorting Hubby’s Mama’s things.
I can only hope they look on our books and collections with the same sense of adenture with which we’ve tried to deal with their grandparents’ things.
And I still haven’t moved the box of books at the foot of my bed.
Trying the minimalist lifestyle might kill me.