Love and Loss

by Ruby on March 15, 2011

Vroman’s president Allison got an article up on the Huffington Post yesterday. The subject? Books she had loved and lost over the years, and the return of an old paperback (and an old flame). On a deeper level, as @novelwhore put it so eloquently on Twitter, it is a “love letter to physical books”. With eBooks becoming more and more prevalent, the fate of the paper book gets called into question with worrying regularity, but honestly: how can pixels compare to a dog-eared, underlined, yellowed, water-warped book? You truly can pour love into those pages.

Regardless, it got me thinking about the books I have lost over the years. We’re cleaning out my storage unit right now, going through piles upon piles of paperbacks, hardcovers, kid’s books, magazines, textbooks… it seems endless. In the process, I’ve discovered a few things:

1. Half the books I expected to find are missing. Especially books from highschool and up. They may be in some other box, but more likely I’ve lost them exactly the same way Allison lost many of her books: the same bookseller’s addiction, the desire to share those stories I’ve felt a special connection to with others. Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow, for instance, are missing, while Xenocide (later in the series, loved far less) is still in my library.

2. My books seem to breed. I have doubles of The Collector, triples of The Little Prince (french and english), two identical boxed sets of Lord of the Rings. As I Lay Dying is also doubled, as is The Book of Jerry Falwell (although that is not by choice – it was a required text for Cultural Anthropology in college). I have many classic childhood tales (Alice in Wonderland, Black Beauty, etc.) in hardcover and softcover versions, each more destroyed than the last. On two separate days, I selected identical copies of The Handmaid’s Tale to save, only realizing what I’d done when I went to alphabetize those books most special to me. Oops.

3. I love to give books away. I see it most with books that come in series: none of them have managed to come through in complete form, with the major exceptions of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. No matter how silly I find the books now – at one point, I owned most of the Dragonriders of Pern series – I am left with just scattered titles. Actually, I just traded yet another Pern softcover away for a Sara Douglass’ Threshold.

All in all, it’s been a very interesting anthropological experiment (especially looking at what I choose to save). It definitely leans towards the nerdy, but that has a lot to do with the fact that these are my old bookshelves I’m going through, not my more recent ones. Kind of.

Then again, choosing to let a good book go is, in essence, the highest form of flattery from me: it means I liked it enough to share, to think of when I’m talking books with someone. So maybe it’s not the ones I keep that are important.

What about you? What books have you let go over the years, and why?

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