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Mar. 17th, 2014

I caught part of an interview with British writer Penelope Lively on the way home tonight - she reminds me of a more decorated (she's Dame Penelope) English version of my great aunt (also a writer.)

She was talking about aging and the downsizing that often comes with it - after her husband died, she sold their country home and had to basically get rid of a houseful of things. She considered moving from their London home into an apartment, but couldn't find any apartment that would comfortably fit her 3000+ books, and the books were not something she was willing to give up.

(I'm paraphrasing this:)

"Why not?" asked the interviewer. "Surely, at your age, you won't be able to reread them. And if you need to refer to them, it's so easy to access books from the library or Amazon. Why do you need to keep them all?"

She replied that there was a very easy answer: her book collection charts her life, especially her intellectual life. As she passes her bookshelves, they wave from the shelves, saying, "Remember me? Remember how you felt and where you were when you read me? Remember when you were interested in this subject?" If I gave up my books, she said, I'd lose an important part of myself.

That, my friends, resonates with me. It may not apply to most people, and even when it does it may not be a compelling enough reason to hang onto the books (there are many circumstances that preclude large book collections, after all), but that's the best explanation of why a book collection is worth keeping that I've ever heard.

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Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
brightly_woven
Mar. 18th, 2014 04:07 am (UTC)
That's lovely. Not my way, but lovely.
mattiescottage
Mar. 18th, 2014 04:42 am (UTC)
'As she passes her bookshelves, they wave from the shelves, saying, "Remember me? Remember how you felt and where you were when you read me? Remember when you were interested in this subject?" If I gave up my books, she said, I'd lose an important part of myself.'

Thank you so much for sharing this! I am having to downsize some, myself, and while I have been able to let go of some things, it has been difficult for me to pinpoint why I feel a resistance to letting go of other things. This really hits some of it. For books and also for some other things. Yes, there are some reminders of my past that I yet want to wave at me sometimes!

I think recognizing this also helps me maybe let go, or find alternatives--or some things to keep to serve as the reminder to wave at me, while other things can go.

Thank you! :-)

Edited at 2014-03-18 04:43 am (UTC)
eattheolives
Mar. 24th, 2014 03:23 am (UTC)
Glad to share. :) I don't think it's a reason to keep EVERYTHING, but it is a valid reason to be attached to "things" and I think just recognizing that helps a lot.
(Deleted comment)
lilia2000
Mar. 18th, 2014 01:43 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, my Mom was listening to that interview yesterday and she was telling me about that exact moment!

I thought it was very poignant. Her sentiment really stayed with me too because I have such a difficult time letting go of my books, and that really explained why. I can trace back who I was to each one! Where I was when I first read it etc.
eattheolives
Mar. 24th, 2014 03:23 am (UTC)
I wish I'd been able to hear the whole thing! She sounded like a completely delightful lady.
onetravelsfar
Mar. 18th, 2014 01:49 pm (UTC)
This makes me miss my books! We haven't been able to afford to move our books cross country four times in four years so they either stay with my parents or, sadly, get sold, along with other lovely things :(. I think we'll finally get to build our collection now that we're more settled!
eattheolives
Mar. 24th, 2014 03:24 am (UTC)
I confess that's one reason I'm rather glad I haven't moved (uh, ever) as an adult.
swedepea
Mar. 18th, 2014 03:57 pm (UTC)
Oh, that's really lovely. I like that a lot!
katharhino
Mar. 18th, 2014 04:14 pm (UTC)
YES. I have, on occasion, weeded through and donated a few books here and there, but it doesn't scratch the surface of our growing (overflowing) collection, and fortunately both Ryan and I feel exactly the same about books. It's like a part of myself is embedded in that extremely tattered Jane Eyre paperback or my childhood collection of LM Montgomery.
eattheolives
Mar. 24th, 2014 03:25 am (UTC)
My most tattered childhood books have to be the Little House series. :) My parents gave them to me every birthday and Christmas between the ages of ... 6 and 9? I think? I read the HECK out of those books.
chestnutcurls
Mar. 18th, 2014 04:29 pm (UTC)
I love this!
(Deleted comment)
krikketgirl
Mar. 19th, 2014 05:51 pm (UTC)
I love this! It's so true. There is a definite connection for me between the physical book and my memories, though I wouldn't necessarily say they chart my intellectual growth (because, let's be honest, I read a lot of fluff fiction).
aftondays
Mar. 21st, 2014 03:02 am (UTC)
I LOVE that.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )