By Wendy Lawton
Books as disposables. Nothing could be sadder.
Did you catch the the suggestion regarding books reportedly made by Marie Kondo, the organizing guru who hosts the Netflix show, Tidying Up? I read that she suggested that, ideally, we should keep less than thirty books. Yes, that’s right. Three-oh.
I’ll admit, in our minimalist age people are not collecting books like they once did. It’s a trend I’m mourning. Yes, I’m an avid ebook reader but I am still a dedicated book collector. Books are such treasures. When I did research on the life of Pilgrim’s Progress author, John Bunyan, a poor tinker by trade, I was amazed to find that he owned a small shelf of books. Volumes in those days were prohibitively expensive compared to our books of today and yet he had more than one, including Foxes’ Book of Martyrs which his wife brought into their marriage. Poor as can be, but they treasured books.
Collecting or Hoarding?
I’ve been actively collecting fine books for more than forty years. Nothing pleases me more than my collection of books. I’ve always longed to have a large room dedicated to books– a personal library– but at this point, one room could not possibly house my collection. As the years have gone on my books are in several rooms as you can see from the photos. And let me confess– there are several more bookcases filled with books that I didn’t photograph. When our local Borders store went out of business we bought sixteen bookcases and built them into several of our rooms. The best thing about them is they came with shelf label holders so we could organize our collecting. 🙂
I used to occasionally run an ad in our denominational magazine seeking books to buy. I found that retiring pastors have some of the most wonderful books and too often no one who wants them. I discovered some real treasures. Many have notes in the margins that are every bit as insightful as the text itself.
But in our day of minimalism we can’t help but ask the question, is collecting books just a different version of hoarding?
I don’t think so.
Here’s why building your own library is important:
- It is a reflection of you. I love to walk into a book collector’s home and browse their stacks. I come to know the people without a word shared.
- Your books become old friends and you can revisit them throughout your life. My mother used to say that the best thing about her forgetfulness was that all her old books were new again. She could remember the characters but she never exactly remembered the plot and she could enjoy them as if they were new all over again.
- Books do not take up much space. There’s a whole world packed in about two inches of shelf space.
- I’ve tried to convince my patient husband that, if nothing else, books are superb insulation. If you could cover each wall with books (and store boxes of them in the attic) you would cut your heating bill significantly.
- When the time comes to downsize, the volumes from your library make exquisite gifts.
Tell us about the books you treasure. Do you collect special books? Does it ever make you feel guilty? What do you think of “tidying up” to no more than thirty books?