Books are Transient

How do you approach books? Do you hoard them, keeping every book you have ever read as a trophy and a treasure, a way of remembering the precious moments you spent in it’s world? Or do you see books as transient vehicles of information and stories, to be passed along from hand to hand like a troubadour from town to town?

I am the latter. I have a collection of reference books that I keep, mainly for illustration and styling inspiration, but when it comes to novels or biographies, the only ones I keep on my shelves are the ones I am yet to read or, since having kids, that I think the boys may enjoy in a few years. People can occasionally be curious about why I include pages from old books in my orders, worried that I am decimating vintage books. The answer is that after a lifetime of collection old books, and looking forward to one day reading some of them to the kids, I’ve realised that a lot of the values are pretty iffy and the work required to edit them as you read them out loud is too much. So I have selected the books that I don’t feel comfortable with, especially ones that are already severely damaged and have decided to repurpose them as little gifts to include in packages. The illustrations are sweet and the odd page of life in a heterosexual, heteronormative, sexist, conservative, white family can seem quaint and kitsch instead of problematic.

I love the aesthetic of a room lined with books, libraries are probably one of my favourite places in the whole world, even the ones with musty grey carpets and harsh neon lights. But I reached a point, after moving home and country for the ten millionth time, where I could see it was unnecessary for me to hoard books. I have rarely ever read a book more than once (MAtilda by Roald Dahl being an exception) as I am generally impatient to move onto the next one. A defining moment of my childhood was when I realized I would run out of time in this life to read every book ever published.

So I read a book and pass it on. Either to someone who I think would particularly enjoy it, or I offer it out on social media, or simply drop at a charity shop or a free book corner. I also write in the margins, turn down the corners of pages to mark my place and bend the spines open. Some would probably quite like to shoot me upon reading this admission.

Tell me, what is your relationship with books?

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