Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity! (Minimalism, post 16.)

It was continued home-improvement adventuring that left Sunday’s laundry undone, but I got right into that laundry yesterday. It felt like a good way to start Monday. I didn’t want to drag last week’s laundry into the new week.

Another thing not getting dragged forward in time: three boxes of books!

This is the minimalism post I thought would never happen, guys. This is the one wherein I report that I’m getting rid of a chunk of my book collection, not just a box or two as I’d done previously. From Day 1 of my minimalism journey, I’ve both wanted this and not wanted this. Behold the plot twist chez moi:

 

destination: donation

 

Only after separating out these books did I realize that yeah, they weighed a lot, physically and metaphorically.

It was just a matter of releasing my insistence on keeping all of the books, more than the books, themselves. I had this pre-determined course of action (e.g. inaction) regarding the books, and I finally decided to ask myself why. I could find no good reason for my obstinance.

What I’ve got left are two full shelves of books from end to end in my office closet, along with these stacks of books remaining from my large, stand-alone bookcases:

 

keeping

 

The exercise grew easier as I went. An exhilaration built up in proportion to the growing pile of books to be donated. The question I asked myself with each hard decision: Do I really need this? I know about the significance of Mary Lamb’s accomplishment, so do I need this copy of Tales from Shakespeare? I have a body of this writer’s/poet’s work in a larger volume, so do I need this extant publication? Do I need these classics for any reason other than they’re classics?

Many of these books entered my life during college and grad school, including anthologies and textbooks of literature, poetic theory, and philosophy. I’ve also kept related required readings. The wonderful thing about being an English major and creative writing scholar was that our required reading was largely comprised of novels and books of poetry. I loved most of them. I learned a lot as I read and studied them. Of course I had to keep them! But all of them?

Some books, my reluctance to let go came from what they were. I had this nerdy and pompous idea that everyone should have them. I went back and forth for a day and a half over The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and The Iliad, then decided that I didn’t need to hang onto them because where the ancient Greeks are concerned, I’m more interested in thought than mythology. I’m keeping Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, though, for reference. I’m keeping Aristophanes: Four Comedies for “Lysistrata.”

My decision to keep all of my collections of short stories (from classics to contemporary) sometimes came down to one work within. For instance, I’m keeping Melville’s Billy Budd and Other Stories for “Bartleby” (referenced in the title of this post).

In contemporary fiction, both literary and pop, I have a few collections: Nancy Drew (a pile that I’d purchased at a garage sale in Los Angeles in the 70’s – hard-covers published in the 50’s and 60’s) and picture books from Hawaii. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. I’m keeping all of Harry Potter, as there are only seven books in that collection. I’m keeping Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series along with my favorite horror novels of his.

As for Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels? I have them all, and I wanted to keep them all… but there are 23, and while I like every one of them, I like some more than others. Actually, I discovered that I had 28 Reacher books, because I had duplicates of five of the novels. Something I wouldn’t have known! Five duplicates taking up space!

When I went to prune my Reacher collection, I ended up keeping:

  • The Affair
  • Gone Tomorrow
  • Bad Luck and Trouble
  • Worth Dying For
  • Persuader
  • Tripwire
  • Nothing to Lose
  • Without Fail
  • Make Me
  • Past Tense
  • Never Go Back
  • A Wanted Man
  • Night School

 

The Reacher that stays.

 

Plus No Middle Name, a recent collection of Jack Reacher short stories. The first three novels listed are my top three favorites, which might have something to do with the fact that they were my first Reacher novels in the order I bought them from La Fnac in Nice. I discovered Reacher in France, as I’ve mentioned before.

By the time I was finished going through the books, I felt as though I’d escaped a tyranny of sorts. This might seem a dramatic and bizarre way to regard the collection of books I’d so fiercely defended in my minimalism efforts, but I think the tyranny was that of my own stubborn self.

My bookshelves and I feel much lighter now. It’s delightful.

 

 

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