Don’t get me wrong. I am still reading, but lately I’ve been abandoning some books. It all started when I thought I should work my way through some of the un-heard books in my audiobook files and unread books in my e-reader. Most of them have been there for many years, silently waiting for me to pay attention to them.
I realize now that there are reasons why they have been wasting away without me. They are just not very good. One was quite well-written but dreary. One was irritatingly condescending in tone. One exuded a philosophy of life that shouted inexperience. One was written with a Victorian English upper-class pomposity that annoyed me. One could have been written as an essay instead of a book. One was a cringe-worthy tale of an affluent white man assessing an inner city in India.
All these books had some good reviews, and some had reviews that indicated they could be either loved or hated. Now that I have tried to read them, I can appreciate both the loving and the hating. They aren’t completely awful, and they have some good qualities, but when I chose to decide where I wanted to spend my reading time, they didn’t make the cut.
That is what is new. I learned I could abandon a book and leave it unfinished. I tried this for the first time a few months ago, and now it has become a lot easier to do. When I think of it as decluttering, it is possible, almost guilt-free, to tell the software to “Mark as Read” a book that I have not, actually, finished.
Last year I spent several months sorting through boxes of memorabilia and old files, and I threw out, or gave away, or sold, or shredded most of it. What I am doing now with these books is an electronic version of that. It feels slightly different from shredding paper files, though, because I feel a different connection with books. Books feel more significant.
Once, I took pride in my book collection. It seemed like both a status symbol and a personal accomplishment to have my own library. As time went by and I moved houses several times, they became a burden. Then, a couple of houses ago, I decided they had to go, and I gave away nearly all my books.
As anyone who loves books and has de-libraried will understand, it felt as though I was tearing out a piece of my soul to part with them. There were lots of novels I would never read again, reference books that were no longer needed, textbooks that were out of date, but they were mine and I had read them all.
Having books is a bit like having a friendship; you don’t have to stay in touch to know they are still a friend. But, friends don’t have to be packed in boxes when you move house, and they don’t take up permanent space in your living room.
When it comes to an audio- or e-reader book, it is now a lot easier for me to realize when I am not enjoying the contents, or if the tone is bothersome, and to just abandon it. Why would I devote myself to a friend who drains me when there are so many good, uplifting, friends out there just waiting for me to spend time with them?