Limiting Your Library

A small, self-indulgent update on my reading resolution (to read more, to read the books I own and to get rid of anything I’m not going to read).

Five months into the new year and I am currently on Madame Bovary. I was hesitant to pick up a classic. Classic books are hard, and I’ve read enough difficult books in the past three years to both with this one, right? But, according to my new year’s resolution, my reading is limited to the books that I own and these are slowly being whittled down with each trip to the charity shop.

I used to spend my free time as a child prowling through the local library, getting excited when the number books I was allowed to take home increased as I got older. The beauty of public libraries is that you can pick up books you wouldn’t normally look twice at and you don’t have to commit. You could return a book never having opened the cover. There’s a certain freedom that comes with being able to pick up a book and not have to worry about whether you’ll actually read it or not. And, when you have lots of disposable income, I’m sure that translates to buying books on a whim too. Or buying books when they’re pretty. Or buying books when you really feel like reading them. Limiting my library to what I already own means that both of these kinds of freedoms are taken away from me.

But, I’m quite happy with this little project. It is forcing me to read books that may have lived on my shelves indefinitely, neglected and unloved. I’ve easily donated fifty books in the past few months, and not thought about a single one again. And, I think, it’s forcing me to decide how much I really value each book – is it something that I actually want to read? To reread? Is it something I would recommend and lend to a friend? I think that’s quite important, especially as we’re surrounded by such consumer culture. The point of a library is not for it to look pretty (I mean, they automatically look pretty don’t they?). Owning something just for the sake of owning it renders it valueless.

Having said that, once I finish this challenge, I’ll be able to go out and restock my library. I’m hoping by that time I’ll have a little more space on my shelves and that I’ll buy and read books as I get them, rather than letting them pile up endlessly.

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