Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Intentional Reading...What the fork is that?

This post has to start with something sad. Because I made a mistake. A huge one.

I sold and/or donated over three quarters my book collection a year and a half ago.

I've been collecting books for years. When I worked at Borders I shopped as I shelved and nearly always bought a book at the end of my shift. When I was in college I always stopped by book sales on campus (the history department was my favorite), and for a long time I was a weekly patron of my library's secondhand bookstore (it's called Secondhand Prose and its wonderful). I had thousands of books, and honestly the majority of them were unread.

But I loved them. 

Through all the changes of address, and all the life events we went through I always had time, and room, for my books. It didn't matter to me that some of them were books I'd never read, I mean you can only read so many books about the English Reformation. Things changed when I had my daughter.

When we first moved into our house I had set up my library in the second biggest bedroom. When I found out I was pregnant the books got moved to the smallest bedroom, and with all the baby prep I never found time to reorganize them. The books stayed in haphazard stacks, shoved onto the shelves, some still in boxes, for nearly a year, The only reason I actually decided to organize my books when my daughter was a few months old was because I'd decided to pare down my collection. Pare it down a lot. It wasn't that I didn't still love my books, or that I didn't have room. I just knew that my anxiety was at catastrophic levels and I needed to simplify my life if I was going to enjoy my home and my family and have a clean house. We had too much stuff and at the time I thought the books were part of the problem.

I was ruthless. I got rid of nearly the entire history section, most of my contemporary fiction, all of the of the romance section (it was small to begin with but after The Purge it was non-existent), a huge chunk of sci-fi/fantasy (so many full series that I hadn't even gotten to read yet), none of the genres went untouched. When I started purging books I had four over stuffed, six foot tall, books shelves and a three foot mini shelf. Afterwards I was down to two six foot shelves and they weren't even full.

For a while I was proud of myself. For a while I thought I'd done the right thing. My library was a usable space again and I thought  'See, you don't need all those books taking up space' but after a few months I realized that I was avoiding that room. The door stayed shut and the reading slump, that started when I got pregnant, didn't end. I took huge steps to get my anxiety under control but I still couldn't seem to pick up a book and read the whole thing. It wasn't till a year after the Great Book Purge that I realized what was wrong; my library made me sad. I missed my books.

The more I thought about my books, and the more I came out of my reading slump, I realized also that I could use this as an opportunity. An opportunity to rebuild my book collection, and to be more conscious of what books I surrounded myself with. Some of the books I had been holding onto before were books I hadn't even liked, books that went on the Did Not Finish list, books that I never even intended to read but I hung on too for some reason (book hoarding?), I had an opportunity to buy books I loved and fill my shelves and my house with books that made me happy, not just made my library full, books I'd want my daughter to read, books I'd want to read over and over again, so I could not only have my books, but I could actually enjoy them for their content, not just the way they looked on the shelves (although I am totally a sucker for a pretty cover). I had an opportunity to intentionally build a library out of love, to be intentional with my books, not to just have books to have books, but to have books to read, to learn from, to be entertained by, to step out of my comfort zone and into something new, and I have done just that. Being intentional is about having a purpose, even if that purpose is only to escape for a while into a world you love but can't actually visit, and my book collection has intention now, the intention to be read.

Since deciding to be more intentional with my reading habits I've enjoyed reading so much more, and I'm reading things I never would have thought I'd enjoy before. I've also read some books I've not liked so much, and those books are not hanging out in my house still. My library is growing quickly again, and I'm not so sad to go into my library anymore. So now I've decided to do the Read My Shelves Challenge, with the intention of reading what I've already got, with the intention of finding what books I have that love enough to keep and which ones are not worthy of a space on my shelves. Loving books is a wonderful thing, loving to read is a wonderful thing, but surrounding yourself with books you don't love, ain't nobody got time for that. 

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