Bibliophile: [bib-lee-uh-fahyl, -fil] –noun a person who loves or collects books, especially as examples of fine or unusual printing, binding, or the like.
I suppose I’ve been a bibliophile since before I could even read and this is what filled me with an insatiable urge to figure out what the letters on the page meant. I loved the smell of the pages, the feel of the books in my hands, the ability to escape and learn and get absorbed in a story. I won a creative writing contest in grade 3 and spent the $100 prize entirely on new books.
I’ve maintained a lifelong love affair with literature. It’s what I know. It’s my passion. It’s one of the few things at which I excel. Math? No. Science? Heck no. Physical Education? Hopeless … But give me a book and tell me to read it, love it, critique it, dissect it, write papers on various themes and I’m all yours, baby.
Fast forward 10 years or so, and I decided to pursue my love of reading at the university level. Four-and-a-half years of intense reading (with some prerequisite courses thrown in for good measure. Let’s not discuss university chemistry please!) and armfuls, boxes full of new books. My Billy bookshelf sags from the weight.
And then there’s the literary internship. Publishers sending books daily to be reviewed. No time to review them all, so many end up getting shelved. The bright-eyed, bibliophile intern decides to rescue them, take them home like heavy, abandoned puppies.
It’s no surprise then, that years of studying and loving literature have resulted in a bookshelf in this sorry state:
So many books, so disorganized, each one vying for attention, my favourites stacked between ones I never got around to reading. I’d had enough–and I’m Dutch so I cannot deal with clutter and disorganization–so last week I decided to spring clean my bookshelf and undergo the incredibly painful task of deciding which ones to keep, and which to donate to goodwill.
It sounds so silly, but it was an extremely difficult task. I sat on my floor surrounded by all my books, holding each one while I decided its fate. Keep, or donate? My friend and I discussed this recently, and why it was so hard. She too is an English major (that is, we both studied English literature in university and were not associated with the English military) and is in the process of going through her extensive collection also.
We believe it has to do with this dream we have of ourselves that we have to surrender. I’ve always had this idea that I would grow up with an impressive personal library and a house overflowing with books. To be seen as this pretentious bluestocking book snob whose book collection is so gigantic that when people see it they come to the conclusion that I’m just so wickedly clever.
The reality is that books take up a huge amount of space, and there are tons of books on my shelf that I never read or didn’t even like. Take Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath for example. Hated the book, not a fan of Steinbeck, but I felt I had to keep it on my shelf just because it makes me look good.
In the end, I decided to get over this dream and only keep the books I would truly treasure and/or read again.
I still have an impressive collection, but now it’s much smaller (and alphabetized!):
Why hoard books which give me no enjoyment when they can bless and be a treasure to someone else? All I can say is, after receiving the books that both my bibliophile friend and I are donating, goodwill is getting some fine literature!
And I’m still a bibliophile. Just a downsized one.