Books Make a Home

How many books is too many?

I know I need to downsize my books before I move into my new apartment. But how to decide which ones to keep and which ones to release?

Obviously my collection of Famous Five hardcovers is coming with me. You can read more about why that’s a ‘no brainer’ in an earlier blog.

I may suddenly feel the need to read poetry out loud so those volumes must be close at hand. The heart-breaking angst of Michael Dransfield or the heart-breaking angst of  T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’. (Well, if you first meet major poets during the heart-breaking angst of adolescence, the ties that bind can be very strong!)

I think I have all of Patrick White’s novels although I’ve only read one of them. My mother was a big fan of his writing and I remember her being thrilled in 1973 when he was the first Australian to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Mum used to say that she only started to think deeply about life in her 40s after she joined a Book Club. Reading literature was her entry point to a bigger and more complex world than her suburban life could ever have imagined.

I will definitely be keeping my copy of ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara. A harrowing story of abuse but somehow it’s the moments of big love that I recall most clearly. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote about ‘A Little Life’, “How often is a novel so deeply disturbing that you might find yourself weeping, and yet so revelatory about human kindness that you might also feel touched by grace?”

I know that I will re-read ‘Anna Karenina’ by Leo Tolstoy a few more times in my life, so it will stay. I love how this novel has opened up its insights to me in different ways when I have read it at different ages. How, in your 20s it’s all about the passionate relationship between Anna and Vronsky. Then, in your 40s the more patient and gently realised relationship between Kitty and Levin takes centre stage.

These decisions are going to take some time. Books make a home and, for me, being surrounded by books brings emotional comfort.

But in the end, the books that have touched us deeply are embedded in our hearts. If the physical book no longer exists, the memory of the book will still remain.

Books make a home? True, but more significantly, books make us.

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