Tome Sweet Tome

  • By Tara Laskowski
  • July 24, 2017

One bookworm's worries about moving


Moving sucks generally, but it's even worse when you're a book-lover.

For one, it limits the places you can move into — you need plenty of wall space to line with bookshelves. My husband, Art, and I once fell in love with a townhouse and were ready to make an offer when we realized the angles of the walls and placement of the windows and closets meant there was little room for books.

Also, the cost of moving is greater when you own a lot of books. Ours probably doubles the estimates we received from moving companies. All those heavy boxes!

With that in mind, Art and I have been trying to purge some of our books as we get ready to move this summer. Nine years ago, when we bought our house, we weren't yet married, we didn't have a son, and although we had lots of books, we didn't have nearly as many as we do now.

So, alas, some must go.

There’s not a science to this process — or, if there is, we haven't yet found it. My process largely involves holding up a book and asking myself: Does it bring joy? Will I ever read this again? Where did I get it? Do I remember reading it?

The question I often get hung up on — and this is true not only of books, but of skeins of yarn, clothing, tools, nearly everything — is: What if I need it again? My fear of giving up stuff on the offhand chance I may need it eight years down the line is inherited. I come from a family of stuff-lovers, as well as book-lovers. We like things.

Which is why, for so long, I held on to my college copy of William Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, even though the spine was falling apart and the cover was tattered and rolling up at the edges. It was, on the one hand, a fear of someday needing all the notes I'd scribbled in the pages. It was, on a more emotional level, about nostalgia.

I'd fallen in love with this novel by reading that copy. I liked the critical essays in the back. I NEEDED that book. For a while, I fooled myself into thinking it was just the edition that I loved, but even after I found the exact same one at a book sale and bought it for 50 cents, I kept both copies for a time. I even considered copying my notes into the newer one. (I didn't. It wouldn't be the same.)

Some books aren't just books. The actual copy can hold much meaning for a book-lover. It can be the romance of remembering the "first date" or just the beauty of a specific book. (My husband has written more thoroughly about this in other places, and we particularly love the look and feel of Folio Society books.) Autographed books, or books written by friends, are especially hard to give up.

My purging became more about emotion. If a book didn't provoke any feelings, or worse, if I couldn't remember reading it, then off it went. Some books that I’d enjoyed got donated because I knew I'd never read them again. I assured myself that, if I was wrong, I could always visit the library.

So once the purging was done and the survivors remained, all lined up nicely and dusted off, Art and I felt proud. How nice those shelves looked! How great our collection was! We were ready to put our house on the market.

And then the house-stager paid us a visit.

I posted on Facebook last week that I thought the worst job must be house-stager, because you have to come into people's homes and tell them to get rid of everything that brings them joy. I was joking — there are far worse jobs — but it is hard, I imagine, to enter someone's home and immediately start criticizing their stuff.

At one point, the stager scrunched up her nose and waved her hand. "Just pack up all the books in here."

"ALL the books?" We laughed. Ha-ha. Very funny.

"Yes. As many as you can."

Art and I looked at her, dumbfounded. Why would we do that? Doesn't everyone like books? It was amazing to think the very thing that might sell us on a house would deter others. That someone might feel claustrophobic in a house with lots of books, or might — gasp — judge us based on our collection.

What kind of monsters must they be? And do we want them buying our house?

We put our home on the market late last week, and yes, kept the books there. Time will tell if they help or hurt us. Eventually, when all this work and worry are over, we’ll have a nice new house to move into. One with plenty of room for bookshelves.

Tara Laskowski is author of the short-story collections Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders, which won the 2016 Balcones Fiction Prize. She is editor of the online flash-fiction journal SmokeLong Quarterly.

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