Friday, May 11, 2012

Project Re-Read

As a child, I was quite the packrat.  Examining my bedroom in my parents' house this winter, I discovered programs from Community College plays I attended as a child, my middle school history notebook (the quantity of my doodles hasn't changed, but their quality has improved), dried leaves from my tree friends (trees I endowed with various names and personalities) and so on.

Since I moved out of my parents' house 12 years ago (and moved every nine months or so since then) I have learned to throw these types of things away, rather than cherish them in hopes of a non-existent future moment I spend reminiscing with them.  I have also become exceptionally good at paring down my clothing and shoes (and of course it helps that I hate shopping for clothes in the first place and stick to "classic" fashions).

The area where I struggle (and I know I'm not alone in this, especially among academics) is books.  I think part of this is rooted in the fact that books were my favorite activity as a child, and not all that easy to get ahold of.  Each book that I was given for my birthday or Christmas became a cherished possession to re-read over and over.  Even if I didn't want to re-read it, I might in the future.  What if I couldn't get ahold of it?

But times have changed.  Between Amazon and interlibrary loan from my university and public libraries (in actual cities, compared to the wandering bookmobile that was my first public library experience), I think I could get virtually any of the books on my shelves if I wanted to re-read them.  The classics are even available free on the internet.  Furthermore, books are heavy.

So in preparation for my upcoming move and in celebration of my wealth of free time, I have decided to pare down my book collection by engaging in Project Re-Read.  I will re-read, or at least start to re-read, the books on my shelves, and decide if they make the cut.  Luckily for me, the majority of my books are still stored at my parents' house or digital (yay Kindle!), so this is still the minority of my books.

There are some books that I will not re-read, and will certainly move (academic references I use often and my favorite childhood books I still re-read).  There are other books I will not re-read, because I remember that I do not want to read them again, and will get rid of (why do I even have these now?).  I may not re-read, but will certainly not get rid of, any Arabic books, because these are still hard to come by.

The rest I will re-read, and decide whether they will make the moving cut.  Will I read them often, or can I rely upon getting them from the library or cheaply from Amazon should I wish to re-read them in the future? My guess is that most books will not make this cut, which will be quite the departure from my previous book-hoarding experience.

I should also note that while giving up books is difficult for me, I have no issues with giving up the physical copies of books.  In fact, most of the books I own are cheap paperbacks, which means they turn yellow and smelly with the years--not something I want to hold onto or attach great sentimental value to.  In fact, if I could magically convert all of my books to digital books, I would have no problems giving up the physical copies.  However, I am too cheap to purchase digital copies of books I own physical copies of to possibly re-read them in the future, so that is also a consideration.

Or perhaps I am just transferring my hoarding tendencies, from physical objects to digital copies, because the latter are so easy to move?


  1. That sounds like a fun challenge! My husbannd and I get rid of everything but books. At least we both agree on this. I look forward to a move because it will mean more bookcases! Though I may get rid of some classics because they often have tiny print and I can get the digital version.

  2. One of my projects this summer is to read for the first time (or start to read) the used-bookstore finds that have made it through multiple moves without ever being read. Some of them are terrible, some of them are gems, some are just not for me. We just sent an enormous box of rejects to a younger relative who likes to read but doesn't have access.