on making space

Over the past couple of weeks, I've embarked on a long-thought-about project, with great results. I've been selling off a bunch of my books. Yes, I know, that's nigh unto heresy for most humanities academics. But it's been really positive for me. These aren't books directly related to my field of specialization, or books that I love so much that I would re-read (which is a VERY small category -- I just don't have that much time to read, much less reread, unless it's for research/teaching). These aren't valuable, rare, or scholarly editions. Instead, these are paperback books that I used in college, or in grad school, and have been carting around for years. Schlepping them across the country, and from apartment to apartment. Plus some books given to me that I've never read. Etc.

I'd gotten rid of some books before, during various moves, but always by taking them down to the 2nd-hand shop, where they give you $5 for an armload of books, sneering "well, these are very academic." Too depressing. But lately I've been selling them on Half.com, where people (mostly students, I would guess) who are looking for the specific book you're selling can find it. And it's been great. I get to make some desperately-needed space on my shelves, distribute my books to people who presumably will use them, and even make some money so that I can buy the books that I actually need and want now. I'm not the person I was 15 or 20 years ago. Why do I need to cart around all of those books? I used to be more invested in the idea of a personal library, but I never had the money to really spend on such a thing -- so my bookshelves are more like a bloated version of my academic transcript: the American Lit class from undergrad, the art history classes, the history class over here. . . That used to be comforting, but over time it became somewhat oppressive.

A student came into my office the other day and admired my new digs. He noted the extra bookshelf (the perks of an admin office) but said "your books actually look kind of sparse." Music to my ears. That means I have space to grow, space to go check out some more books from the library, maybe do some searching for the rarer books I'd like to own. Thinning out some plants is what helps them breathe, helps them grow. I'd like to think that's what I'm doing for myself by getting rid of some books.