Letting Go of Books

“The Library is a wilderness of books.” —Henry David Thoreau

I have a master’s degree in English. I’m a homeschooling parent. Books aren’t only important to my daily life. They’re tied up in my whole identity. It would be heresy to get rid of them.

Wouldn’t it?

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized that keeping all my books is more about my identity than about their usefulness. Because, fact is, the majority just sit there gathering dust. Will I ever again read Sula? Probably not. Not to say that it’s not worth a second or even fifth read.

The primary usefulness of Sula and S/Z and Ulysses lies in broadcasting to the world, or at least anyone who enters my house, that here lives a well-educated, well-read person. Ladies and gentlemen, a confession. I never finished Ulysses, even though I had to grade papers on it as a T.A. (What is that book about anyway?)

What seems so completely obvious now is that, if I ever want to re-read any of the great lit on my shelf, I need only go as far as our fabulous, new Belmont library. Or my iPad.


So in one day, I loaded up my entire library into boxes and gave them away. Just like that. My identity security blanket gone.


Have I missed them? Let’s just say that when I wanted to reference a passage from Kahlil Gibran recently, it was as close as a Google search and public domain.

In the place of my dusty, heavy bookshelves are three baskets for library books and a weekly scheduled time on iCal to visit the library. Plus The Hobbit on CD in the car,  A Christmas Carol downloaded to the iPad for free, and Walden, the book, at my headboard.

I thought I should read that one again before giving it away.