Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Weeding the Shelves

Last week, we had wine and cheese with neighborhood friends--not an unusual event.  She's a therapist, and she told me about one of her patient's need for books.  She works with clients in a home that's primarily funded by Medicaid.  It's safe and clean, but there are no frills; for example, if patients want a TV, they have to provide it.

One of her clients had a TV, but it quit working.  She talked about his longing for books, how he said he'd be grateful for anything to read.  It's a no-frills institution, so there's no library.

I can only imagine, with a bit of terror, how it would be to be stuck in an institution with nothing to read and nothing to watch.  I have lots of books that I'll never read again, so this morning, I turned an eye to my books, and I chose several for him to have.

I briefly wondered if they'd be suitable, but I don't know enough about the patient to know.  I chose a Louise Erdrich book, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, that I picked up on sale, but will never likely read since I've had it over 10 years.  I reread Julia Alvarez's Yo! this summer and won't be reading it again, so I chose that. It's Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond, the latest Julia Cameron book on creativity, basically repeated her other books, so there's no need to keep that.  I also chose a memoir by Rachel Held Evans, and a book of history that came to me when I ordered something else from a small publisher completed the set.

I've been thinking that it's time to weed the shelves again, and I think that it is.  But I don't want to do that until I know where the books are going.

Once I weeded with abandon; I assumed that the books would always be available, whether in the library or online.  Now I don't assume that anymore.

Right now, it's tempting to get rid of a lot of these books, especially some of the heavier volumes of theology that I don't anticipate rereading anytime soon.  But some part of me hesitates--it's the part of me that envisions being in a similar shape as my friend's patient when I retire:  in need of books with no way to get them.  At that point, I'd rue the years when I abandoned so many books.

One thing that keeps me from weeding is that I've built a really good collection in some topics:  individual volumes of poetry, theology, and creative writing.  I don't necessarily want to break up the collection--but there are some volumes that aren't really worth being included.

Do I need to have them here in my house?  If I had a place to send the poetry collection, and someone to pay for the shipping, I'd send off most of the collection fairly quickly.  There are only a few volumes that I can see reading again and again.  Many of them I bought because there was some kind of good buzz or good review, and often, they left me shrugging.

Part of it is my age old sadness at how much money I've spent and how it can all come down to being a problem of weeding.  It's a classic reason why we hold onto things, whether they be clothes, books, jewelry, housing:  if we let it go, we have to deal with the mental discomfort of knowing how much we've spent. 

And that's why I'd like to know that whatever I've bought is going on to a new life.  If I think of others getting joy from my castaways, it's easier to let go.

Perhaps in the new year, I'll make an offer on Facebook:  send me your address, and I'll send you a few volumes of poetry.  I'm not braving the post office during this holiday time, but most of us can use a boost in January.

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