blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
Book inventory. It had to happen eventually. When solid wood shelves sag like a swayback horse and avalanches have nothing to do with snow, it’s time to either buy more bookshelves or take inventory of what must stay and what can go.
I probably lost half of our blog readers with the words “can go.” Books? Go? Leave the house? Go live somewhere else? What is this concept of which she speaks?
I tackled the inventory/purging task after procrastinating a mere eight years. What I learned about myself, about authors, and about books fell into categories much more naturally than the volumes I retained and reorganized.
Inventory Observation: Unfinished Business
More books than I’d care to admit had bookmarks a third of the way through, halfway, one chapter in. Something made me set the book aside before finishing it. Life events? Maybe. Most likely it was one of four other possibilities.
- The book (fiction or nonfiction) failed to hold my attention and pull me through to the last page.
- The book established an idea fleshed out well enough in the beginning chapters that everything beyond the beginning seemed repetitious. Compelling, un-put-downable books build a case, build layers of a story, leave something for the next chapter and the next.
- The author’s writing style didn’t appeal to me, even though it might have been deemed a bestseller in others’ opinions. It’s like the ongoing battle between those who like sweet or unsweet tea.
- Poor editing or poor research grated on my last nerve when I set the book aside, unfinished.
Inventory Observation: Worth Saving, Unrelated to the Writing
I opened a dusty book I’d never read, but found that the original owner had been my grandmother, who died when I was in first grade. She’d written her name inside the cover. I kept the book because it connected me to a grandmother I didn’t have a chance to get to know.
I kept books that marked defining moments in my spiritual life. Their spines tell a story.
I held onto books with personal messages in the autographs.
Inventory Observation: Old Classics, New Classics
Keeping historical classics made me feel instantly smarter. Keeping new classics made me feel savvy. More than that, though, when others–visitors, children, grandchildren–take their own inventories of books that were important to me, the literary legacy will show my tastes ran from Tennyson to Francine Rivers.
Inventory Observation: Empty Promises
I have promises yet to be fulfilled. As I pulled books from the shelves to make decisions–Keep or let someone else enjoy?–it became clear that I need to step up the pace of my reading so my to-be-read stack doesn’t turn into a library of good intentions unfulfilled.
Inventory Observation: Thanks for the Memories
Some decisions were no-brainers. I could safely part with a book about preparing for Y2K, and books about parenting strong-willed children. Actually, I passed those on to the parents of my strong-willed grandchildren. I held other books in my hands and silently thanked the author for the memories, the insights, the experience, the journey.
Imagine having a book owner take a similar inventory and hold your book in their hands. Would the book be reshelved among new classics? Kept for its evergreen, timeless message or story? Reread? Boxed up for someone else to enjoy?
Whatever it is you’re in the process of writing, consider inventory day at a reader’s house. “Should it stay or should it go? What makes this book worth the shelf space?”
It may be the heart of the author. The way the book made the reader feel. The memories it evokes. The dog-eared pages or yellow highlighting or the personalized autograph. It may be the turning point the book represents.
Inventory. What a great reminder that the text on the page is only half the story.