Why I Keep My Books

The other day, I read Tim Covell’s post Books and Clutter. In it, he was commenting about an article he had read in a local publication that claimed it was okay to get rid of books.

Both the article and Tim note the trouble of getting rid of books left behind by people who die. That might be a family member or friend. One suggestion was to clean off the bookshelf before death, keeping only what is truly personally valuable.

I understand the philosophy, but I don’t agree with it. However, my opinion applies to the average person, not the extreme. The extreme being the ones who have tens of thousands of books. My view is for the average person who has less than 1,000 books, most having around 500 books.

When we cleaned out my mother’s house in 2019, I was glad I was there to save the books. Others in my family don’t give a hoot about books, so they would have thrown all of them in the trash. They care about books so little, they wouldn’t even have considered donating them. Into the trash they’d have gone without a second thought.

My mother was not the average book owner. She seldom bought books. In total, I believe there were around 40 in her house. Some were books I had written, and one was written by my daughter. A few were genealogy related with connections to our family, particularly her family in Newfoundland. One I had bought her while we were visiting her place of birth. It was locally produced, so copies were limited. I had a copy, too.

Other books I had given to her as gifts. They were stories from Newfoundland. She loved reading these over and over. She also had a fetish for the royal family. The Queen and the history of her family, so she had a few older books about them. She loved reading romance.

I kept all the books, and I went through each one. In them, I found obituaries clipped from newspapers (including the one for my brother who died in 1962), memorials from funerals she attended, a baptism record, a few old photographs, a letter from my brother to her decades ago when he was out west, and other odds and ends in her handwriting. My mother stuck everything in books. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had found Sir Robert Borden on a bill tucked between the pages. I didn’t. I think she preferred to stash her money in her bra and panty drawer.

I’m the average book collector. I wouldn’t be surprised if I counted my books and came close to 1,000. If I did a serious clean out, I might lower that to 800, but all my books are staying with me. Why?

While I do have a few dozen novels, a good chunk of my books are non-fiction. Everything from gardening, woodworking, sketching, painting, herbal remedies, magic, dictionaries, cookbooks, grammar, how to write, handbooks on various topics, gems, atlases, local history, war history and local life histories fill my book shelves. I also have a growing number of my own books and books I’ve helped others publish.

In this digital age where many have stashed their books electronically, I don’t feel comfortable doing that. I’d need power to access them. I’d need some device to view them. That’s fragile. That’s as temporary as an MP3 file for a song. No, I need hard copy.

Hard copy allows me to read a book any time, any where. I see my distant future without the Internet, without a laptop or phone, so if I don’t have hard copy, I won’t have my books. Twenty years from now, I want to sit near a fire and read these books, passing away winter days emerged in story or learning things I didn’t have time to when I was younger.

Knowing the way the world is, the way facts are being manipulated to fit an agenda, I don’t trust institutions to preserve what was. When I learned publishers were removing the ‘hard words’ from old books to make it easier for today’s dumber generation to read and understand, I realised the words written by many great writers are not what is found in today’s new editions.

That’s the least of our worries. I’m more concerned with stories and history books being changed to fit whatever twisted narrative the people in power want to give. Since I use this weapon in my Castle Keepers series, I know how it works. Little changes here and there, and no one knows the truth has been removed and a new ‘truth’ has been inserted.

I understand my books will one day be a burden to my kids, who will be tasked to take care of them. Before I reach the ripe old age of death, I plan to sort through them, donating or giving away books that no longer serve a great purpose. I’ll whittle it down to a few hundred and provide written explanation as to why these are important. Once I pass over, it will be up to them to decide what they do with them.

Until then, I will surround myself with books. Real books. The kind I can hold by the fire, read without power and to pick up years from now and know it will be the same story, the same words as when I first read it.

By the way, Tim is the author of a romance novel set in Nova Scotia. It’s called Ocean’s Lure. Check it out.

12 thoughts on “Why I Keep My Books

  1. I’m with you Diane. If I don’t have 1000 books, I don’t have one. I grew up in a house without books, thrilled to receive a stack of encyclopia. Like you, probably more than half my books are nonfiction, and there’s nothing like paperback for reference. Too bad, when I die, someone may delight or hopefully give away to someone who does care. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • There weren’t many books in my house growing up either. My oldest brother bought comics, which I read, but if I had to guess, there may have been 20 books in total. That included an atlas, which I ‘read’ many times and dreamt of places I’d go. I think I may still have that book tucked away somewhere, routes to fantastic places traced out in crayon or coloured pencil.

      I recall the day I received my “In a People House” by Dr. Seuss. I was five, it was June, the last day of our neighbourhood kindergarden. My teachers signed it. I was delighted. I ran all the way home to show my family, and then we went to the camp. It came with me.

      Many of my books have a story attached. They’re not just random books thrown in a box.

      I agree: there is nothing like paperback for reference. The digital world is here today, but it is fragile. I believe I won’t be able to access it within 10 years. Yet, my books will be by my side to help me learn how to plant a vegetable garden, sketch an eye and build a bench.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know what you mean by special books. I was given a few as a child. And lol, I bought myself a huge atlas book in my late teens. I still have it!!! 🙂

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  2. My home is filled with books. They are everywhere and I love them. Realising that I have far fewer years ahead of me than behind, I have begun donating the books my grandchildren have outgrown to charity shops … a long process for they bring to mind memories of my own children when they were young too. Some novels are held close before they too make it to the charity pile, but – guess what – it isn’t long before I have acquired a pile of other new or secondhand books! They bring such joy with them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Book lovers will always acquire books. That’s what I believe. If I got rid of all my books today, within a year, I’d have another small collection. There is something about a book that makes it meaningful, worthwhile. It’s like there is magic between the pages, and I want to hold it.

      Thanks for commenting. I understand the memories with books. There are several I have read to my children hundreds of times that I will keep until I die. I’ll share them with my grandchildren, but they are with me until the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We had so many books from my aunt and uncle’s house and I still have many. We kept the non fiction beautiful ones with photographs and also their collection of Dickens’ paperbacks – which my son kept giving them after discovering they were very cheap to buy for birthday and Xmas presents; they were delighted to rediscover Dickens. They loved reading and would regale us with tales and facts from their latest books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love books as gifts. It’s wonderful when a book has a story all its own of how it came to be with a person and how it travelled from one person to another.

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  4. My books are my best friends and I had a lot, probably about 1,000. But when I moved to Spain I had to dispose of them. Many were given to friends, donated, some even sold at second-hand book stores and some special books went to my daughter’s place where she has them proudly on her bookshelves. I brought some with me of course. I still miss my books and often reach for one, only to realize I no longer have it. Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Darlene, I understand why you had to reduce your pile books. That would be extremely difficult for me. I plan to move only once more and that will be within Nova Scotia, so I’m taking my books with me. Technically, I’ve moved only once in my lifetime. While I lived at a few locations other than where I grew up, they were short term 3 to 6 months, so I left most of my stuff in my room at my parents’ house.

      My next move will be into a smaller house, but there will be room for my books and my music collection.

      Liked by 2 people

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