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.

5 thoughts on “Letting Go of Books

    1. I hear you. It took a lot to do it. But now visiting the library has become essential, and we’ve loved finding all the other cool stuff offered there–classes, book clubs, reading with therapy dogs, movies–for free. Things you lose out on when you buy through Amazon. Forgot how cool libraries were, since my days of working on the bookmobile in high school.


  1. I am very pleased to find your blog and this particular post. I have just started a blog about post consumerism and my book collection. My books and I are based in the UK and I’m on a journey that is starting with my books. You and your family are much further down the post consumer path than I am, and I will be fascinated to read through your blog 🙂

    My interpretation of post consumerism is to stop buying and start reading. I have a lot of good books that I have read and a lot that I haven’t. My digital e-book library also counts as something that I am consuming though, it doesn’t take up space, but I still know it is there! (As an aside, if you have a Kobo, you can borrow e-books from the library with it, or at least you can in the UK!)

    I’m amazed that you have got rid of all of your books! But when you come to think on it, once its read, why keep it? I think my answer to that question would be; so that you can look back at your collection and remember the good times 🙂 I have only made a couple of posts so far, but I could remember and record my memories via my blog though?


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