The Books We Carry

woman next to pile of books

Like most, I vagabonded in my early twenties. Though I did not move from town to town or from exotic country to exotic country as I wished, I frequently swapped apartments. Always hunting down a better space with nicer floor, pet policy, or that coveted dishwasher–I trucked my belongings between buildings myself with the extra muscle of a few friends who called on me when they similarly found their next best ever apartment.

Each move meant retracing my personal history. Each object held meaning and screamed out its nostalgic story. I waded through the cardigans and tee shirts of old roommates and boyfriends, borrowed never to be returned. I cranked old music boxes and listened to their tiny sounds. I alphabetized and sorted my books.

I’ve mostly dispatched with the nostalgia for old tee shirts and collectibles, finding my nostalgia more strongly tied to videos and picture of my kiddos as little babies. One thing I still pause to muse over during a move is our collection of books. We are a highly literate family. We own stacks of novels and histories, comic books and art monographs. Some books contain as much personal history as a photo album. Personal library building was ingrained in my husband and myself by our respective mothers who insisted we both own as many books as we liked.

Both mothers ensured we left each school book fair with a truckload of titles, and bookstore shopping trips trumped trips to pick up the hottest new athletic shoes or toys.  Books are what my husband and I bonded over when we first fell for each other. We spent hours in bookstores finding our favorite titles and picking out new ones to share. Even after paring our personal collections down to “just the essentials” when we first moved in together, our shelves continued to overflow with books.

Mostly the obsession with owning books is a healthy one, though it means we eye those with e-readers suspiciously and question their disinterest in sniffing a page of fresh ink or cracking open a new spine. However there is one time when books are an absolute menace and that is when it comes time to move again. No longer looking for the best next apartment, we first outgrew our two bedroom house when my daughter was born and we had to haul our library across town to the new house.

Every stick of furniture and every box of pots moved easily until we got to the small mountain of book boxes. Our muscles screamed at us, begging for illiteracy or at least indifference to the written word. So did our generous friends who asked more than once if we had heard of digital books. Truth be told, it was enough to make me consider an e-reader for the non-essentials: the beach reads, the mysteries, the humor books. After holding one in my hand, I just couldn’t pull the trigger and instead left the store with three new titles in my bag.

We are moving across the country for my husband’s job soon. Fortunately, the company is paying for national movers to pack us up and and carry our library across the country. I still plan to spend time with my books and personally pack them before they go in boxes though. There’s something reassuring about resting my hand on the spine of The Little Prince or The Collected Edgar Allan Poe right before a move. I know those titles have been with me through thick and thin, and will find a home on the shelves of our new home.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to foster a love of reading in their children.

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