A loss of sorts

I’ve always collected books. Growing up, one of my favourite authors became Gay Gavriel Kay. I returned to his novels at many different points in my life, re-reading, and re-reading. And, I am not a re-reader – once I read something it’s very rare I return to it. However, I’m also a hoarder of books. I can’t part with one, even if it means it’ll sit on my shelf for ten years without being re-read.

When I was a little girl I wouldn’t lend out a book because I couldn’t tolerate it if the book came back with a crease in the spine, or a rumbled page. I used to read somehow without breaking in the spine. I’ve relaxed as I got older, but I do very distinctly remember hunting someone down for months when I was in my late teens to get back a series of books I had lent him. I finally showed up at his door with a few friends and demanded it back from his parents. I was a book bully!

This summer we found out we had a severe mold infestation in our basement. We had to tear apart the whole basement, and throw out a lot of stuff. We had to throw out all of my books. It wasn’t hard to do it. My husband was shocked at how easy I let go. We’d been having health problems for four years, and to find out that was the cause, I just wanted it all gone.

BUT, it’s been about two and half months now, and this morning I felt a pang at all those books gone. I wanted to re-read one of Gay Gavriel Kay’s books, and I realized I didn’t have it anymore. This got me thinking about all the books I lost. Some that took me ages to find, gifts, others that represented certain moments in my life, and others that were just fantastic books that added to me, and were a wonderful experience. All my textbooks were gone, my fantastic reference books.

It’s the second time I lose my collection of books. When I was a kid and my parents moved, somehow all the boxes with my books were misplaced. Yes, the very ones I was so anal about keeping brand spanking new, gone. All my Little Women, and yes, Little Men, my Anne of Green Gables – gone!! I think to this day my Anne books are the ones I miss the most. My Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and my Sweet Valley Highs, and VC Andrews, and even my Dr. Seuss and Judy Blooms! The list can gone on and on! I was an avid reader and won the summer reading book list at the library every year by leaps and bounds. All those books – gone!

So, now I begin collecting books again. I start this collection with The Canadian Writers Market (cause I had loaned it out and it was saved), Twilight (for the same reason). I have a few mommy babby books, and my kids have some books in their rooms but all our holiday collections and special books that I kept on shelves were thrown out as well, so I begin with some children’s Halloween story books that I bought to get us going again. And the one book that was salvaged (that my husband cleaned because he couldn’t part with), is my graduate thesis: Regulation of Translation from the Internal Ribosomal Entry Site of the Hepatitis C Virus. How’s that for stale reading?

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24 thoughts on “A loss of sorts

  1. I actually think your paper on HepC sounds pretty interesting…but I betray my scientific beginnings…I am also a book hoarder, so I understand that incredible drive to get and keep books. However, I finally went through the boxes in our basement and found that it wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be to purge. I wasn’t able to get rid of them all, though. If you’d like a copy of Microbial Parasitology, just let me know.

    • Interesting?? Hmmmm?? lol It always stuns me when someone who knows me in flesh comments here. I think I’ve said that before, but I tend to forget that people in my ‘real’ world can and do read my blog on occasion! lol

      Purging feels so good, so freeing! I love seeing empty space. You know, we’ve been in this house 4 years, and most of my walls are still bare!!

  2. This is the first time I’ve heard someone mention Guy Gavriel Kay outside of a fantasy website, so yay for GGK and for you having good taste! I’m the same way with infrequently rereading books, that’s why I borrow so many from the library and only buy those I know I’ll (eventually) come back to or that my library doesn’t have (usually US releases).

    • I too use the library frequently, Sophia. If I didn’t I would be bankrupt and would need a house just for books!

      I adore Kay :))) And I’m eagerly something new!

      Nice to see you around!

  3. I feel the pain of your loss. I’ve only lost a few books, but you may remember that last year I lost half my Christmas ornaments, including those I’d saved from all my children’s school years.

    It’s great though that you discovered the mold. I hope the “loss” of that helps your family stay healthier now.

    Good luck with your new book collection.

    • I do remember, Linda! I actually thought of you through it!

      Thanks, and it does help, to see the whole family healing and getting healthier, without question it helps!

      Thanks, and I look forward to beginning all over again 🙂

  4. I would be heart broken, Jennifer. I too hoard books. I simply couldn’t imagine starting all over again. Will you try and replace some of the previous books or will you begin with all new titles?

    • I think some I will have to replace some, but it will take time…A few titles are too precious to me not to own. But it also gives me a chance to buy some new ones I’ve borrowed from library that I wanted to purchase. Thanks for sentiment, Laura!

  5. I thought I was the only one who kept books they had no intention of re-reading. I just can’t give them up. Actually, this summer I bought a book I had already read and loaned out several years ago (and have never gotten back). Apparently, my father is the black hole of books *grumble*.

    If you still miss the book after two months, I think it makes sense to purchase it.

  6. When I moved from Florida to Boston in 1990, I brought ten books with me. Unfortunately the answer to the inevitable trivia question is lost to stale memory. However, the process of starting, building, cleansing, and restarting is endless and also, to some extent, thoughtless. We do it because we somehow have to.
    What will you and your reading and writing habits be like, say, a year from now?
    May you always stride down the road, head held high.

    • hmmm, I hope my writing and reading habits will keep growing and expanding. It’s amazing how much memory is held in things, and I actually hadn’t realized how much was held in books, I was quite surprised that the attachment wasn’t only for the work itself. But, it’s only a book after all….Thanks, tikiman! I wish you the same – head held high!

  7. My husband and I purge books that we have no intention of re-reading, and I can’t imagine hiding our collection in a basement–unless the entire basement was our library. (Oooh, I want to dream of that.) It sounds like you lend books out more often than we do, though.

    I understand what you’re saying about a reader’s memories being preserved in the books she’s read. It would be hard to explain, but I feel that some of the novels on my shelves are more my diaries than are the notebooks I’ve filled with personal notes since my early childhood.

    Have fun forming new bonds as you re-build your collection.

    • Thanks, Ann, I’m looking forward to re-building the collection!!

      I get you completely – it’s like just holding that particular book brings me back to a different place and time. 🙂

      Yes, our basement was divided into two parts. One was playroom. The other was our study/library. It had a wall of bookshelves, and at one point our piano in there as well. It was quite a mess going through it all and throwing it out. The salvageable stuff was the plastic toys!

  8. I’m sorry for your loss, I can only imagine what that feels like. I also cling to my library and keep favorites in the living room so I can look at them as if at old friends every evening.

    • Thanks, Cathryn!! You know, my living room is overrun by kids stuff, and I wanted a separate space for my books. After this experience I’ll certainly use my basement differently. If you can imagine, my house is built on a hill, and the basement is ground level, with full windows, so it didn’t have that basement feel. It’s nice to hear about your friends in your living room 🙂

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