After spending the majority of the years 2001 through to 2007 going to university and working in two different bookstores, I managed to accumulate several hundred books. I counted once mid-2005 and it was about 350. More gathered since, both before and after the Grand Library Merger with Husband’s collection in 2011. Even after the Moving House Purges of 2006, 2009, and 2012, I would reckon that we entered July 2013 with about 400-500 books.
The importance of a single book in your library is indescribable. Each book is like a photograph. I pick up a book and am transported to the time and place where I collected it. Was it for Engl 105, that fantastic introduction to Joan Didion? Was it the last copy of a bargain book I found during a shift at Chapters? Was it a gift from an ex-boyfriend who meant well (but probably not that well, since he should have known that I worked at a bookstore and must have known that Dover Classics are about two bucks apiece, so thanks-but-no-thanks for the six dollars well spent on Dante).
But like Frodo Baggins, we are going to a place where books cannot follow. The cost is too great to ship or store that many books and there is something liberating about casting off our libraries: literally getting rid of baggage; literally getting rid of dead weight (dead trees, that is); literally pawning the past.
At the end of all of that, the four books below were the four I simply could not bear to part with.* Four. Out of four hundred. What is it about those four? What power is it they hold over me? Do those four books hold the core of who I am? I can even recall the years I bought them all. Howl was 1998. Bethlehem was 2001 (for Engl 105). The Jungle was 2006. Lorca was just 2011.
That’s the narrative of my life.
All of this was quite unintentional.
*Not counting obvious keepers like my grandmother’s old copy of Jane Eyre from 1918 and souvenirs like I Feel Relatively Neutral About New York.