Monday, October 10, 2011


I love books. I adore books. I hoard books. When I moved to Seattle, I culled my library from almost 1000 volumes to 200. Four years later, I moved again and culled 500 more from my collection. When I came back to the east coast 3 years ago, I sent 15 boxes ahead. 2 were clothes, one was packed with keepsakes and 12 were full of my favorite volumes.

I have no problem throwing out anything else. My great grandmother's cake pan? Bah, it's rusted and unusable. The faded notebook that she painstakingly copied recipes into? A treasure! Don't ever ask me to give up my copy of The Quiet American that I read while sipping 'white coffee' next to Hoan Kiem Lake in the sultry Viet Nam mornings.

I would rather lose a finger than the tattered A Tree Grows in Brooklyn that my grandmother read to my mother and then to me when I was a child. I was Francie. Knowing that my niece will pick up the same pages next year (when I pass it on) that 3 other generations have caressed thrills me.

I can't do libraries. I try. Over the years, I've moved a lot. I have a system: move stuff, contact PO, contact banks, get new driver's license and car registration and obtain library card. But I have never returned a library book on time. Not once. While packing yesterday, I came across 3 library books, the only books that I've checked out from the local library since moving here.

I can leave my childhood home without a backward glance (stupid albatross) but returning those books brought tears to my eyes. The one was the last book that I read to my mother before she died.

I drove home and cried. Then, I drove back, paid my $82.15 fine and checked the book out again.


  1. I understand the inability to give away books. My shelves are filled with books that I will likely never read again but that I can't bear to not own anymore. It's a completely irrational thing, yet it's something that's impossible to change. And I don't really want to change it!

  2. It's totally irrational. It took me two car trips to my new apartment for books alone. They're like my security blanket; the first to be unpacked and the last to be crated. Whenever I'm horribly upset, I'll pull something like Leibniz' political essays and after a few minutes of deep concentration, I feel better. Have you ever read Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader? She shares my corporeal love of books in a really witty way.

  3. Is that picture of Harper Library at the University of Chicago?

  4. Nope. It's Suzzalo Library at the University of Washington. I spent more time here than at home during my undergrad.