You know the song “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before”? The song that goes … “who travel in and out my door…I dedicate this song.” Change “girl” to “books” and that is what today’s blog is about. To all the books I’ve loved before.
Once, when my daughter was about 7 or 8…
I suggested she start reading the Harry Potter series. She’d been devouring books at a level well above her reading grade from a young age. She’d blown through the Rick Riordan Lightning Thief book series. So, obviously, she tended toward the fantasy realm. Harry Potter seemed like the natural next step in her reading evolution.
BUT, she refused to read it. My daughter is stubborn, like me. So, she continued to refuse over and over again. I couldn’t figure out why. Until one day she, finally, she told said something that made it all make sense. She said, “I’m afraid I will love Harry Potter more than The Lightning Thief.”
It was poignant and thoughtful and the moment I realized my daughter, like her mother, loved books. I mean really loved them. I couldn’t have been prouder of her that day.
This memory made me think about all the books I’ve loved…
I mean really loved, and how each one leaves a little impression on my soul. There are far too many to list. I’d worry I’d forget one and feel bad later, like an award winner who forgets to thank her parents or something.
To all the books I’ve loved before
Still stacked in piles once on my floor
I’m glad you came along
I dedicate this blog
To all the books I’ve loved before
But, what about the books I’ve just liked or not liked at all? Why are they still in my bookshelf. (I’m not just keeping them so I have more books for my bookmas tree.) I’m not a particularly sentimental person. In fact, in my house my family fears my constant tossing out of pretty much anything we haven’t used in about a month. Why can’t I part with them?
In order to try to uncover my own motivations, I went looking (on the internet of course) to see why other people keep their books. Here’s what I found on various blogs and chat rooms.
Aesthetics happened to be a motivating factor for many people. They just like the look of having books in their house. A large bookshelf filled with volumes is akin to purchasing a nice painting.
Me: I can relate to this. I also love my bookshelf and take pride in organizing it. Although, I don’t like clutter so mine is sort of hidden away, I put books anywhere they can be displayed. So, this might not be a major motivation for me. That said, if I had a large house and could have a big, beautiful library, I would.
Some people feel invested in their books. They’ve spent time with these books, the books have changed them or at least entertained them. That’s the great thing about books, they’re an interactive medium. You can get out of them what you put in. If you invest in liking a book, it’s characters, it’s themes, you start to feel close to it.
Me: I think this is a motivating factor for me for certain books. I’ve fallen in love with characters and can’t seem to part with them. But, that doesn’t explain why I feel the need to keep A Beggar’s Opera (a book I read in college that I did not love.)
Some people keep books because they remind them of a certain time in their lives.
Me: This may explain why I kept A Beggar’s Opera. Perhaps it reminds me of college, when I used to be able to read and write about books all the time. I do miss that. I even bantered around the idea of going to get my PhD in literature at one point. Ah, to be able to just read and think and write and teach about books…it is kind of a dream of mine.
Some people like to reread their books. Interestingly, others really do not. They worry rereading will somehow ruin their initial love of the book.
Me: There are some books I reread, usually my favorites, and others I don’t need to read again. And, yet I still keep them both. I imagine I’m not the only one in this camp.
Badge of Honor
I also read many comments about how people take pride in reading and, in a sense, showing off the books they’ve read. A large library highlights an accomplishment.
Me: I understand this as well. I do feel pride in my books. I enjoy having them around as a reminder of all the books I’ve read.
Others commented that a library can be an ice-breaker with friends or spark conversations.
Me: I know when I go to someone’s house and I see a collection of books, I go right over to it and check out what that person reads. Sometimes it can give you insight into a new acquaintance or greater insight into an old friend.
It definitely seemed a large majority of people who commented on this topic noted a general attachment to their books, like the way kids become attached to stuffed animals or adults become attached to the large ceramic chickens in their kitchen. (Yes, that’s a reference to you, Mom. Your chicken is quite cute.)
Me: Perhaps I’m more sentimental than I realize, or I just have a targeted sentimentality, because I do feel an emotional attachment to books. Even as I was cleaning out my daughter’s old children’s books to give away, I found myself hanging on to more than I probably should have.
To all the books that I’ve once readby dim light snuggled in my bedI think everyone knowsI’m grateful for the proseof all the books I’ve once read
So, what did I discover about my propensity to keep books?
Like most of life, nothing is simple. There is no one motivating factor for why I like to keep my books. It’s a mix of different reasons and probably more I don’t even understand. Still, it’s nice to try to figure it out. I just hope someone, other than me, finds my book (The Travelers) at least pretty enough to keep on their bookshelf! If they get sentimental about it too, that would be a bonus.