Dang, I hate throwing away books

When we moved five years ago, I took so many boxes of “Friends of the Library” books to the library that they screamed, “Help, please make it stop.” And then they complained when I didn’t come to the book sales and take away as many books as I donated. “I’m downsizing,” I explained. They didn’t care.

Later, I unloaded (that doesn’t sound good, “so turned in”) a grocery sack full of books at a local used book store for “store credit.” Luckily, I found a couple of things that looked good. I came out with fewer books than I walked in with.

There were some places to donate books, but they’ve become more selective and, when it comes down to it, I cannot afford to pay the shipping costs for each book I want to get off my shelf.

So, it’s a crime, I know, but I’m now tossing out old, badly dated books in the trash each week. I decided, for example, that I no longer need my 1980 backpacking guide or a stack of paperbacks I didn’t like the first time I read them.

I used to sell these on Amazon, but Amazon has made establishing a seller account more difficult and I can’t compete with the sellers who’re charging a penny per book and trying to make a little on the shipping. Same goes for eBay.

We’ve discussed moving again. That means I need to get rid of a lot of stuff. Books in bulk are really heavy. I don’t feel like going through another move with more books than most small-town libraries.

Plus, boxes of books really tick off moving companies because when they make their estimates, they don’t expect all that extra weight or the time it takes to load those boxes into their truck.

Lately, I’ve been re-reading a lot of books on my shelf (as well as those stacked up in a closet). This is my poor attempt to stop bringing so many new books into the house. The trouble is, my favorite writers keep writing new stuff that I can’t resist. For example, Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus) is releasing The Starless Sea next week and Theodora Goss just released The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl, the third “Athena Club” novel. This means that I’m under relentless pressure to throw more stuff away to make room for the new stuff.

What I need, is the phone number for a place that accepts old books for good causes and then sends a truck out to pick them up. So far, no luck.

Malcolm

 

 

How often do you re-read your old books?

  1. Never because I don’t know where they are.
  2. Once in a while whenever I can get them away from the dog.
  3. Whenever I find then hidden at the houses of friends who “borrowed” them.
  4. Are you crazy, who has time to re-read old books when so many new books are published?
  5. Whenever my stack of new books runs out and the next Amazon shipment is days away.

My answer to this hastily thrown together set of questions is #5. When I read a great book the first time, I think, “I’ll remember all of this forever.” When I re-read it ten or twenty years later, I’m amazed at how much I’d forgotten.

Biltmore House Library

Returning to a favorite book is like having a new conversation with an old friend. I don’t re-read books as often as literature professors because many of them read books again every time they teach them in a course. While some literary criticism is interesting, I seldom read it, even when it focuses on the books on my selves I like the best. I don’t like being skewed away from my impressions of a book over time by reading what others have said them.

My favorite room at Asheville, North Carolina’s Biltmore House is the library. My library wouldn’t look this good because I buy mostly paperbacks. They don’t wear as well or look as nice on shelves that climb all the way to the ceiling. As it turns out, some of my paperbacks are so old that the pages fall out when I read them. Suffice it to say “Perfect Binding” (the style used for most paperbacks) isn’t perfect. The glue deteriorates over time.

I’ve probably re-read this series of novels more often than any other. Fortunately, my copy isn’t as beaten up as this old edition on Amazon.

I doubt that any of my old books are worth a lot of money, so you won’t see my name attached to a newsworthy sale of a book at a famous auction house. In addition to the favorites I’ve owned for years, the most dear are those that were once owned by my parents or grandparents. They speak to other times and other places, but re-reading them occasionally is almost like a psychic experience because my imagination tells me what my relatives thought and felt when they once read the words I’m seeing years later.

Every time I re-read a book, I discover something new about the story or about me. Sometimes I remember where I was when I first read it. Sometimes I’m disappointed because I no longer like the story and I see that I’ve changed from the person I was when I thought it was the best thing I read “that year.” However, the books I turn to again and again are always a special pleasure because through luck or magic or the author’s skill, they have kept their excitement, sense and relevance.

Perhaps some of you have found some of the same things to be true whenever you took an old book off a shelf and enjoyed it again.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “The Sun Singer,” “Sarabande,” “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” “Mountain Song,” and “At Sea” in addition to numerous Kindle short stories.