You’re Moving. Which Books Do You Save?

Last September, I made my official move out of my mother’s house. My dad got behind the wheel of the U-Haul and carted my stuff — furniture, pots & pans, clothing, knickknacks, and tubs and tubs of books — over 300 miles north. For the first time ever, I had all of my belongings in one place — inside that giant U-Haul — and it was a little overwhelming. How did I, this one person, come to acquire so many things?

When I unpacked back in September, I counted all of my books: the total came to over five hundred.

Here I feel I must insert a caveat. I grew up in a very small rural Midwest town (population 1,000). Although the library there held many good memories and smelled delightfully of old books, it  did not have the largest collection of books in which I was interested, especially as I got older.  So, I began asking for Barnes & Noble gift cards for Christmases, birthdays, etc., and gradually I built up my own personal library. (I also frequented library sales, used bookstores, and the collection of old paperback classics in my uncle’s basement.)

Now, I know as well as anyone that there can never be enough books in any one place. A stack can never be too high. I have books gathered up and down the walls of my hallway, lined up in empty beer box shelves and scattered about each room of my apartment.

books1

But my lease is going to be up in about three months, and since I am nothing if not reasonable (and a tad bit lazy), I’ve been attempting to scale down a bit by selling some books at a local used bookstore. I have, so far, sold approximately fifty of them.

I periodically go through my collection and decide which books I can part with with the least amount of heartache. Some books I toss into the to-sell box with ease. With others, I sit down and crack them open, read a few pages, and usually put them back on the shelf. Many I won’t even consider selling.

Sometimes the books that fall into these three categories surprise me. For example, I easily sold several brand-new, in-perfect-condition books simply because I didn’t much like them and can’t imagine reading them again, no matter how pretty and colorful they may look on my shelf. (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz and Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk come to mind.) Sometimes I ran across cheap, $4.95 Barnes & Noble classics that were hard to part with (I kept Jane Eyre and sold Wuthering Heights), not because I love the story so much as I love the memories I have of reading the story.

Most of the books I kept are the ones I’ve had the longest. I’ve gotten rid of none of my old favorite Young Adult books (Keeping You a Secret and Luna by Julie Anne Peters; my abridged and illustrated version of Oliver Twist; A Series of Unfortunate Events; Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Little House on the Prairie books). I’m attached to them; they’re my childhood and my adolescence — how could I give them away?

I also kept all of the books given to me as gifts, even if I don’t particularly like the book itself. Any book that has a memory attached to it is kept. My favorites are kept. Ones I might read again. Ones I haven’t yet read but want to.

Books are like little moments in time. The best moments, the most memorable (whether good or bad), stick with you. And I’m beginning to think that the best books stick with you even when the book itself is gone.

I’ve realized two things over the past year: that your local public library is a great resource, and that your personal library is best when each individual book within it is valued. I think it’s time I collected books based solely on what they mean to me, not how they look on my bookshelf.

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7 thoughts on “You’re Moving. Which Books Do You Save?

  1. I’m moving out of my parents’ home in two weeks and last night I took the time pack up all my books. Now, I don’t have nearly as many you did when you moved, but they did all fit in 6 apple boxes nicely. My parents asked if I wanted to give away some of them but I literally can’t. It’s so hard for me to part from books that meant something to me once. Because of this, I fear my love of buying books compulsively (whether I really need a new one or not) will ultimately lead me to a home with my boyfriend stacked with books everywhere. I’ve already warned him.
    I’ve tried going to libraries, and used to love them as a child, but nowadays I just can’t. I like physically having the book on my shelf and being able to go back to it whenever I wish. So good for you for embarking on the library book borrowing, as I don’t think I can.
    Great post 🙂

    1. I wish you luck with your move! A house (or apartment, or room) full of books is a wonderful thing. I agree that it is nice to have a book on your shelf to go back to you whenever you wish, and I have many that I do go back to over and over again, even if only to look up a certain passage. Often I keep my library books for 3-4 weeks after I finish them, just because I’m not read to part with them yet. 🙂

      I absolutely love your blog, by the way!

      1. Yes, that was my problem — all my library books would be overdue! I figured it’s easier to spend money on buying the books than on paying for library fees 😛

        And awe, thanks so much! I love your blog too!

  2. I finally realized the library was a great resource a few years ago as well. Thank goodness, my poor move last year would have been insane if I had bought all those books. If I really LOVE library books then I end up buying them, but I love how you categorized your books and decided which ones to keep. : )

  3. Ayaaaaa, I just don’t know if I could do it! There would be a few I could give away and sell, but when I say a few I mean maybe five. :S
    I think I would be throwing out the clothes, pens and paper, pots and pans, (you know, the sensible stuff) before I could part with my books.

    I have a problem!

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