How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Books mark the interests in my life like some colorful timeline. I have my earlier periods of favoring Richard Brautigan and then my attention moved to LE Modessitt. Some are worn and some are too precious to mar the cover. There are the books from my various classes. Then the ones that remind me of friends and loves. I love to browse my children's shelves and see my childhood books and those given to the boys thoughtfully by friends, aunts, and uncles.
Of course, ministry has also fed this addiction. Yes, I admit that I am indeed a book addict. I'll take a little Process Theology with some Carol Christ, some Catherine Keller. I need a little Tillich or some Telesco. I'd like some Thich Nhat Han or a book on mysticism. Yet, why stop there. Give me historical China. Give me Science Fiction. Give me a book of verse. Give me. Give me. My insatiable book needs are overflowing my shelves, my dresser, my desk, and I am in the position where books must prioritized.
Tell me, how do you prioritize a book? Is it the number of times you've read it? I have to ask whether it might inspire a sermon or I might need it for something. There are some books that are duds, and I can often find another loving home for it. Yet somehow, like the movie Inkheart, I feel books have a magic life of their own. Crack one open and it takes you away. It has no strings or requirements, except patience for plot and a love of words.
Cutting down books is like culling saved letters. It is letting go of a chapter in my life or a moment in time. The best way I've found to reduce my collection to where I don't have to sleep on them or use them as a night stand is to spread them to other book lovers. Other book lovers will then love them and share them with someone new. Like some perfect dessert, you can only have so much sugar until you need to share it with your friends.
So, my New Years weekend will be spent lovingly looking through books. Some will find new homes, and others will never quite make it past the "must keep" pile. Until, I look again at my bookshelves and stacks of books and start over again. The delightful spiritual process of cleaning out and making room. The process of remembering what is important to share, and what is important to hold close.
Let books be your dining table, And you shall be full of delights, Let them be your mattress, And you shall sleep restful nights.~Author Unknown