Getting to Know Your Bookshelves Again

Someone mentioned to me recently that she was going to be moving to a new apartment, which she would be sharing with her boyfriend. I asked if they both had a lot to move from their old apartments, and she said no, but then, “Well, he’s got a lot of books.”

And then I started thinking about how when I met my husband, I had books. Not too many, but enough to be, well, several boxes’ worth each time I moved. When I moved in with him, into his 2-bed-2-bath condo, it wasn’t too difficult to blend our bookshelves. Actually, the difficult part for him was adjusting to living with another person. I will never forget him saying, “Your stuff. Is in. Both. Bathrooms!” But I digress. Blending books wasn’t too difficult; we looked at any duplicates we had, kept the best copy and donated the other one, and then I just arranged stuff in a way that made sense. Over the years, we accumulated more books and it got so that I would just put things on the shelves, not really looking at them, thinking I’d read them at some point.

This all changed when it was time to move from one house to another house, in another state. Suddenly, all of these “someday to-read” books were annoying me. Why were there so many? How could we have possibly amassed the sheer volume of books I was facing? The fact that I worked in a library and had free access to the book sale books was a factor. The fact that we liked to prowl through used bookstores was another. There was no question; some of the books had to go. I weeded and donated. I weeded again. I unpacked the books at the new house and weeded more. And then, when I finally took the time to arrange them again in a way that made sense (because, you know, I’m a librarian. Books have to be in some kind of order that makes sense), I realized I was seeing them in a new way. Without so many extras crammed in, I could see the books we truly enjoyed. I had forgotten about some of them and started happily picking them up, paging through them. I remembered why I had bought them, and which ones I had introduced my husband to, and which ones I read because he showed me his favorites.

It’s easy to get caught up in the exhilaration of coming home with an armload of books, but there’s something intoxicating about sifting through things, letting go, and then finding your way back to books you love.


About centerforthereader

St. Louis Central Library, Center for the Reader, is where you can find fiction, reading suggestions, author information, and much more!
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3 Responses to Getting to Know Your Bookshelves Again

  1. mystified13 says:

    People used to ask me when I was a shelver if I kept my personal collections in order. At the time, I really let things slip. After 8 hours in the stacks, straightening cds and books was the last thing I wanted to do.


    • Admittedly, I tend to do it once, and then just maintain it. Moving, though, meant that everything (books, CDs) was all out of whack. I had to be in the right mood, though (and yes, a pint of beer was helpful). But I agree with your comment that sometimes people think that those of us who work in libraries must have our personal collections super-organized, right? Um, not necessarily. 🙂


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