Personal

Too many books

I’ve been a reader as far back as I can remember — more nonfiction than fiction, and more short works than long books. But I love to read.

A book about me

I used to keep every book I read. That way, there was a lasting physical connection to the feelings and thoughts each book stirred in me.

Additionally, from my mid-20s until about my mid-30s I edited books, for a while as my main job and later as a side gig. Publishers sent me a copy of every book I edited. They were like my babies; how could I let any of them go?

I had shelves and shelves full of books, and more in closets, and some in boxes in the garage.

And then my first marriage ended. Nearly broke, I downsized into a 300-square-foot apartment. There was no room for most of my stuff, let alone my books.

As I sorted through them, I realized I had read only tiny fraction of them more than once. It finally struck me that keeping them was just wasting space. I sold or gave away all but a short stack of books that represented a cherished memory or that affected me deeply.

I took to borrowing books from the library, and later buying them for my Kindle. The cloud can store far more books than my house can! And when it’s time to move to a new house, the Kindle is far lighter than a whole library of books.

This was part of a larger change in the way I looked at stuff. I had tons of it, and to fit in my tiny home I could keep almost none of it. So I got rid of it — and then I felt free owning so little. It shocked me how good it felt.

I eventually bought a house again, but did not return to my accumulating ways. I furnished the place and I bought things I needed to function there. But periodically, and especially when I sold the place a couple years ago, I went through my stuff and got rid of things I didn’t use regularly.

In recent years my hobbies have led me to buy paper books again. I own a couple dozen books related to transportation history, which I use to research my road trips. They are all long out of print and not available electronically.

I started buying books of photographs a few years ago. It’s lovely to see photographs printed, rather than always on screens. I own a book of Polaroids made by Ansel Adams, one of 1930s New York scenes by Berenice Abbott, a collection of Edward Weston images, and a lovely book about making photographs around one’s home by Andrew Sanderson. I’ve learned a lot studying these works of accomplished photographers. I also own a couple dozen zines, chapbooks, and Blurb books published by other photo bloggers. I’m a sucker for those. If you make one, I’ll probably buy it.

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