Yes, we can. That’s what I’ve learned this summer.
My friend circumstance argues in her latest post on her blog Trek*, that one can not throw away books. Just a few months ago, I would have been completely on her side. Especially in her case, as she has a few things going in favour of her line of argument.
She has a great library, to start with. As she herself explains, 90% of the hundreds and hundreds of books she owns, she has read herself. As she is an expert in literature (with title and all), one can just randomly pick any specimen out of a shelf and will have a great read, no matter what. That’s what I’ve found over the years. Often, “the library” also served as a guest room, so I have first hand experience on this. The individual rooms changed over the years, and every time “the library” was moved to another room, some more shelfing was added, to have room for the additions to her collection.
Second, it looks great. Rows of bookshelves just have such a cosy feeling to them. To me, anyways. Memories of school or public libraries belong to the fondest memories of my childhood and teenage years.
Third, it really would be a shame to get rid even of parts of her book collection, as they are all English books. As she lives in Austria, this is a rarity only matched by maybe one English book shop in Graz and one in Vienna. Could be, the language institutes at the universities in both cities have something comparable, too, but I doubt it.
And fourth, one just doesn’t throw away books. Period. That was my credo, too. So no matter how often I moved places, when I still lived with my husband, the many banana boxes for transporting my own books were never thrown away and regularly in use. Then we separated and I moved into a big flat. With a big wall full of book shelves. Seven years later, I moved into a small apartment, where my big black shelf-wall would not fit. So I build myself two low shelves. Each made of thick, solid wooden boards two meters long but just with three boards atop each other. Deep enough, to stack two rows of paper backs in, each. With this move, I had to part with half of my books already. But this was quite easy, as in the old house we had the unspoken agreement of putting stuff, one wanted to give away, in the downstairs hall for three days. What hasn’t been taken after three days, one had to clear out. So everyday for what seemed a long while, I just put stacks of books in the hall every morning. And sure enough, most of them were taken. So half of my books found a new home in no time.
When I moved in with my sweetheart, another six years later, the two low shelves and their contents just came along with me and found a place in my sweethearts office. He had very few books, maybe thirty, that somehow also found a place on my shelf, that now became a bit crammed. Most of his own books still were in his former house with his estranged wife along with his record collection and other stuff. But this spring, his wife passed away and his nephew inherited the house. So my sweetheart was asked to pick up anything he wanted of his books and other items. That led to more books and a record collection coming our way. Now I had to find a solution soon.
It presented itself, when we renovated our flat this summer. My first impulse was to give all the English books I had to part with to the refugees expected to come to our village. None of them would be able to read German, but maybe English. But none of them arrived, so far. So there was nowhere to bring the books to. But the waste paper container. As the craftsman wanting to put the new flooring in was due the next day, I had to empty the shelves one way or the other. This was the time to decide, which books to say good bye to and which ones to stack on the floor in another room to be reshelved later on.
And I tell you what. While the first few “outs” took a long time of pondering, the decision making process sped up significantly. There was a deadline, and if I kept making a drama about every book, I’d never be finished. I set two guidelines: would you buy this book again? If I would not, I binned it. Would you ever read it again? If not, it depended on the memories attached to it. Good memories – a keeper. Bad or indifferent memories or I can’t even remember what it is about – the bin.
Thus, two hundred books or more payed their dept to nature and were introduced to the German paper recyling process. And there are no regrets at all. So, it is possible to throw away books, surprisingly.