I was raised by parents with opposite views on owning things; my father is basically a hoarder of books and DVDs, while my mother screens the house for clutter on a constant basis and is always trying to make more space. She cringes when my father comes home with a new pile of books from the thrift store or some new trinkets, which is three to five days out of the week.
As a result of this feud, which I give them credit for balancing relatively peacefully (although my mother is always kind of freaking out about it on the inside) has resulted in me growing up unsure of how much stuff I should have. I declutter every few months and toss a couple things I may not have touched, used or otherwise appreciated for a good deal of time. Overall I don’t consider myself overly attached to my possessions. But when it comes to getting rid of books, I am always conflicted.
On the one hand, keeping all of the books I read provides me with a visual record of my literary experiences. I like this about book collecting. I even like to keep books I didn’t finish or wasn’t crazy about, because there’s always the chance I could revisit at a different point in life and find appreciation that I previously couldn’t muster.
But what about the books I know I will never read again? I’m talking mostly books I read for school throughout the eight years it took me to achieve my bachelor’s degree in English. I organize my books alphabetically and by category, one of which I have dubbed the literary Classics, divided into British, American, and a few others. Some of these I did enjoy and I’m proud that I read them, so those are keepers: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin; Dante’s Inferno; Kate Chopin’s The Awakening; The Picture of Dorian Gray; Tess of the D’Urbervilles; various collections of Modern American short stories. These are forever part of my collection.
The then there are the ones that, to be honest, I hated. This includes most works of Shakespeare (I’m sorry!) and the almighty Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to name a few. Some of these I read both in high school and in college, a couple up to four times in my school career. They’re those books that sort of prove you went to school and serve no other real purpose aside from making it look like you’ve read a whole lot of books. Which I have, and I do like having a reminder of that. But I’ve decided it’s time to let some of these books go. I’ll sell them used so that other students can be tortured… Um, I mean educated by them.
I always hate pulling books from my collection to be disposed of, but now that they are out and pulled together I feel pretty good about letting them go. Appreciating literature is not about liking everything you read or keeping everything you read, or even finishing everything you read. There are so many books in the world I can’t wait to read and so little time to do it, I shouldn’t feel bad about the ones that just don’t fit the bill for me personally.
And now that I have some more space, time to buy some new books!
Do you have any very popular books that you just can’t stand? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!