As my husband delivered yet another bag of books to the Arlington Library, the librarian came forward to thank him personally. After all, even if nobody else gives the library gently read books for the next book sale, it will still be a success. Singlehandedly we have donated hundreds of volumes, about nine out of ten that were formerly on our shelves. Unless we finally call a halt, Michael will need ice packs and Advil for his sore back.
From the moment we decided to move, I dreaded the day the culling would begin. How could I get rid of these precious memories, this invaluable information, this journey into the hearts and minds of my fellow authors?
More important, how could I afford to ship all those books to our next destination unless I did a little paring down?
Surprisingly, I have discovered the experience to be nearly painless. An awful lot of shelf footage was taken up by research volumes that are now either out of date, or no longer necessary for future books. I will not write another novel about Australian pearls. I will likely never write another novel set in Louisiana, and if I do, it will be contemporary Louisiana. I have said everything I care to about bootlegging, Irish immigration, and fox hunting. Someone else may find those collections useful. I truly hope so.
And the novels I always planned to read and never did, otherwise known as my TBR stack (to be read)? Some will be packed, because a second look convinced me I really do want to read them. But others will find a different home. I bought some of those books because I thought I should. I can almost guarantee that I wouldn’t get to them or get very far in them if I kept them. “Should” isn’t a word that I like to associate with reading.
What did I pack? How did I decide? First any book with a strong sentimental pull went into a box to be shipped. The romance novel I bought when little-ole-unpublished-me first met author Jennifer Blake, who encouraged me to keep writing. Or how about my collection of Amanda Doyle Harlequins and my Arthur Upfield Bony mysteries, which ignited forever a love of the Australian Outback? Books by friends. Books that remind me of important moments and events. Books that made my heart sing? Boxed them, all.
Research books were harder. In the end I only kept the ones that targeted subjects so esoteric I might have problems tracking down the information online. The Internet has transformed the world of research, and most of the time now, that’s my primary source of information.
Oh, but I did keep EVERYTHING about the Shenandoah Valley, because I really DO plan to write more in my Shenandoah Album series.
What would you have kept if you were in my shoes?
The bookshelves at my mystery destination will seem sadly empty. For a while. But I bet you know the truth about bookshelves. There will be book sales wherever we move, and I’ll buy someone else’s discarded treasures. A book here, a book there. Not to mention all the brand new books I can’t live without. Bookshelves fill quickly and soon overflow when we make room for new acquisitions.
And that’s exactly the way it should be.