Old Friends. Treasured Tomes.

Eleven Margaret Atwoods.

Seventeen Jodi Picoults.

Hardcovers, purchased back when hardcovers came out months, sometimes years, before the more cost-effective soft covers; books I couldn’t wait on, books that were worth paying extra so I could read them sooner like Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Books autographed by the author like The Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald and Sources of Strength by Jimmy Carter.

Books purchased during dark times when I struggled with depression like Dark Clouds Silver Linings by Dr. Archibald D. Hart and Peter Hanson’s The Joy of Stress when I was near my breaking point.

Books so delicious that I can remember where I was when I read them like John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.

Books read more than once like John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany.

Books that changed the way I thought about life like a dog eared and worn copy of The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck.

Books purchased when I was a teenager dreaming of a future as a wife and mother like Love and Laughter by Marjorie Holmes

Countless other books–both fiction and non-fiction.  Treasured tomes. Old friends.

Does anyone really need that many books?

For most of my life I’ve been a hopeless bibliophile. I once joked with someone that the only reason I had a job was so I could buy books and, while that’s not completely true, a significant portion of my salary over the years has gone toward buying books. I’ve got books tucked away in my attic, books saved from my childhood and the childhood of my children. I have closets and cupboards filled with books. I have three floor-to-ceiling bookshelves overflowing with books. The answer to the question for most of my life has been yes, I do need that many books.

But there’s this retirement thing on the horizon and the inevitable downsizing that will occur. A few weeks ago Gerry and I packed up bags and boxes of books I had tucked away in the attic a few months ago and donated them to the local library. I was brave; I didn’t allow myself to look through the bags and boxes before we loaded them in the back of my car. I had identified these as ones that could be given away months ago; I dare not peek inside lest I change my mind about some of them.

This morning I started going through the books on my bookshelves and choosing even more books I am willing to part with. There are a few I don’t feel an attachment to; I’ve read them, and I’m finished with them. I lift those from the bookshelf easily and place them in the pile I started across the hall. Others I pass by quickly; they are part of me and I can’t bear to get rid of them. As the pile of books across the hall grows larger and my bookshelf emptier I feel a knot in my stomach. It’s not easy to part ways with old friends such as these.

These days I read almost exclusively on my Kindle and my relationship with these electronic books is different. Electronic books seem more disposable and I don’t usually feel the same attachment. I finish a book and delete it from my device soon afterward, though I’m comforted by the fact that it remains in the cloud somewhere I can access it again should I feel the need.

I’m not finished the task yet; this will take some time. Some books, I’m certain, will migrate from the discard pile back onto the bookshelf while others may make the reverse journey. I need time to contemplate my decisions. This is not a task that can be rushed.


I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things and the thin places where faith intersects.
  1. If you are still feeling bad about leaving your books behind, Linda, let me offer you this. These treasures spent years with you so that you could become who you are today. You no longer hold them on your shelves, you hold them in your heart, a place where they are safe always.

    Blessings as you move into this time of change, and growth, in your life.

    1. That’s a wonderful way of looking at it, Shirley.

  2. Oh, Linda, how I identify with you! I have downsized twice and I still have way too many books for my tiny little duplex. Unless I have some compelling reason not to, I try to buy all new books on Kindle. I try to utilize the library as much as possible. And I now find myself utilizing the virtual library as much as the paper library. I still have some of my childhood books and a few of my daughter’s childhood books. Then I have shelves and shelves of all kinds of books, some yet to be read. There are books in every closet and in every room.

    1. Some books are just too dear to part with–like treasured books from our childhood and our children’s childhood. Like you, I have some books I haven’t read yet and it would be wrong to part with them, wouldn’t it?! I wonder what “problems” bibliophiles of the future will have with their hoards of ebooks….running out of virtual storage perhaps?

  3. Linda, I feel your pain! I felt anxiety as I imagined making those decisions….like Sophie’s Choice! I think it’s so hard because when we fall in love with a book we’re not just changed by it, we’re injected into it and so become entwined with the words themselves. Good luck!

  4. Boy do I feel for you Linda. We are truly soul sisters on this. After recently having dealt with my parents’ possessions, the bookshelves of books here haunt me some. I’m trying not to buy any more paper books and strictly read digital ones. I love the fact that I should be able to keep my digital library (via the iCloud) with me forever.

    I’m starting to try to get rid of a book or two here or there.

    You can also try finding practical uses for your books – stack them into small end tables. 😉

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