I have a lot of books in my house. In fact, that is one of the first things many people say when they come overto my house–”Wow, you sure do have a lot of books!” They usually sound a bit awed and confused.
I am not a crazy book hoarder, really. I have two sets of bookshelves in my living room, 4 shelves of books on storage units in my family room and a large hutch in my dining room that is mostly full of books. There are books piled on the front of some of the shelves, and I do have another bookshelf in my room, but there aren’t piles of books on the floor along the walls or anything (we’ll ignore the stack by my bed for the moment, 😉 ). Frankly, I am surprised at how few books other people have, even some my friends that do read. They read a book and then pass it on, or get a lot of books from the library. They might have one small set of bookshelves, in an office or bedroom, not out in the public spaces of the house.
While I have some sympathy for the library readers–books can be expensive, especially when you read a lot–this still seems very strange to me. I love surrounding myself with books. I love the ability to pull out a well-loved book and read a favorite passage at any time. I love that I can always lend someone a great book. When I am feeling cash poor in a given month, say after some unexpected car repairs, I like knowing I can always find something on my shelves to read to distract me from worries and have a good time. I find the sight of books throughout the house reassuring, comforting.
I have some mixed feelings on re-reading books. Except for a few favorites, I prefer to be surprised by a book, so I don’t want to re-read them when I know what is going to happen already. However, the benefit of keeping books around for a long time is that I can forget them. That doesn’t sound like a benefit, I know, but think about it: I have a large collection of books that are practically new to me when I read them, since I remember very little of the plot, but I do know that I will really enjoy them all!
At 41, I don’t feel old at all, but I have books that I have kept since high school, over 20 years ago. I can pick these books up and know almost nothing about them, except that I liked the book enough to keep it all these years. Sometimes I find that my taste has improved, and a book that I remember as amazing is merely adequately written, but I still can’t bring myself to get rid of those books. The ideas were just what I needed to read at that time, and my readiness to hear that message overcame any flaws in the writing. I enjoy the book for the memory of who I was when I read it, even if I don’t enjoy the book itself as much as I once did.
Do you keep books or get rid of them? How do you feel about re-reading books? If you do re-read, what are your favorites?