Monday, September 10, 2012

On book keeping

"Smart people always have a lot of books and games," my friend Mary said. I am pleased to say that she announced this while perusing the bookshelves in my living room.

In case you're wondering, Mary is a person with a lot of books and games. She will soon be tackling The Art of Seduction — which is not a self-help book but a chilling analysis of human nature. Good thing she'll have Atlas Shrugged as a beach read.

So what does it mean that I decided to pare down my collection tonight, before settling in to watch a jillion episodes of The Wire?

This project started because I decided to dust the shelves. To really truly dust, that is, to get the dog hair out.

Books are amazing things. They're like music, transporting me to a certain time in my life. So I want to remember what I've given away. It's odd, trying to hold on to what I'm letting go of.

Sure, I'm keeping some books for the sake of vanity. Like Small Is the New Big. I have not read it, but I think that having a Seth Godin book makes me look au courant in my thinking.

But I'm also keeping Love on a Rotten Day. In addition to giving hilarious rundowns of different astrological signs, it reminds me of Scorpio Heather, who suggested I read it. We met at a TV show taping five years ago, and I love when people recommend books that I'd have never found on my own.

I don't always do so well when I choose my own reading material: I'm giving away a few financial and business books in pristine condition. Maybe these tomes had one intriguing idea, but I couldn't slog through most of them. Same with some of the dog training books. Papaya can't read them anyway.

It's with mixed feelings that I'm parting with The Managed Heart and one of my Norton anthologies, books that were so much a part of my college experience. But I'm not giving away all of my old texts. I'm still hoping to read The Odyssey.

And then there's my grad school days. Keeping: Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion. Giving away: Anger: The Struggle for Emotional Control in America's History. Yes, I've always been interested in emotions. In studying them, that is — not in having them.

I can't bear to give away How Emotions Work. Even though I was probably the worst research assistant ever (I can recall only one accomplishment: finding a Freud reference about a dream), Jack Katz wrote, "To Naomi, In fond memory of your help in making this monster."

I'm also keeping the children's books — both copies of The Giving Tree were gifts — and everything Philip Roth and Oscar Wilde. Mine is a library filled with hope and cynicism.

Goodbye, my printed friends. You'll always be in my heart, if not in my mind.

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