Today I spent a few hours helping get things ready for the annual library book sale at the library in our town. I could do this, "volunteer at the book sale" thing all day every day. People drop off the books they want to donate, we sort through them, and then categorize them. The room we are holding the book sale in is in the basement of the library. It is full of tables and we have signs with categories written on them sitting on each table and we sort the donations that come in accordingly. I love, love, love looking through the titles of the books. Today we all giggled when we found a book titled The Pop up Book of Phobias. I smile when I am leafing through a book and find a piece of paper with writing on it, a bookmark, or even a receipt. Those sorts of things give the book character and always make me feel a connection to the person who had the book before. I did not realize how many things we stick in our books until I started working at the library.
I love seeing what people donate. Their books say so much about them. I know some of the books are gifts that they kept because of the thought of the giver so I try not to judge them to harshly on all their titles :) But I do wonder what made them choose to get rid of the particular books that they did? How do you know when you are done having a book on your shelf ?
While I was there today a nice man dropped off 5 big boxes of books. They were all nice, hardcover books. As he was leaving he told us about how both his parents had recently died and how he had had a hard time going through their books and giving them up. It was a very significant, and by his own admission, emotional moment for him. As I sorted through those five boxes of books I learned so much about his mom and dad. There were lots of biographies on British royalty. Lots of books about nature and more particularly stories set in nature in New England. A copy of Emily Posts books on etiquette. Books identifying British birds. A biography on Estee Lauder. Beautiful Christmas song books. The books were all immaculately taken care of. Their dust covers still on them ( I notice that because I always immediately take my dust covers off) and a carefully placed book plate inside each book with the owners name in it. There were even a few books that had been signed by the authors. It was sad to think about these books heading out into the world to be separated from each other. I wondered if people would recognize the value of some of them. I hoped people would take good care of them and love them.
Then there were also boxes of donations that had things in them like an outdated 2008 consumer guide book. A fart humor book...yeah, a whole book. A book about golf to be specifically read on the toilet. There were boxes of paperback romances. One box was full of religion and philosophy books....I had a hard time categorizing all those. No matter how long I am around books I am still utterly amazed at how many there are out there in the world and they all seem to be in a constant state of being bought, read, and donated.
I, of course, began wondering what my book collection says about me. I have recently been sorting through my books as my life is changing and I am drastically downsizing. I tried to think about how I decide which books stay and which books move on. I tried to get rid of a stack of Star Wars Jedi Apprentice books and my children freaked out. They have not opened them in years but they apparently have an intense bond with them.
There are some books I will never part with ;
My book by Irving Stone about Abigail and John Adams called Those Who Love I will never, ever part with.
Mrs. Mike which is a true story all about a girl who marries a Canadian Mountie and moves with him to the far reaches of Canada.
My Tolkien books will never go anywhere.
My favorite book Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner will most likely be at my funeral :)
The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton... the dialogue and descriptions in that book being me so much happiness.
Box set of all the James Herriott books about his life as a veterinarian in England....All Creatures Great and Small etc
Anything and everything involving Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Every single one of the Jane Austen's. Who can get though life without all of those on their shelf ? :)
The history books by McCullough and Philbrick will never leave.
I wandered through my bookshelves for awhile today and it appears my collection of books tells you how much I love true stories. I love history. I am a Mormon. I garden. I dabble in finding emotional intelligence. I keep up on what is popular at the moment....Twilight, Hunger Games, Gone, Inkheart series, Harry Potter, Eragon etc.There is a book about how Google came to be. A book about Bob Dole. A lot of the classics....like O'Pioneers, My Antonia and The Chosen.
When I was kid I spent lots of time perusing my parents books. I particularly remember a small green hard cover book that fascinated me because the paper it was printed on was so thin. I think it was a copy of Tess of the Dubervilles. Every time I babysat for someone when I was a kid I would go through their bookshelves.... right after I checked out their cold cereal :)