Our Bookshelves, Ourselves

The Bookcase Pop Built

The Bookcase Pop Built

My dad built this bookcase before I can remember. It’s in many of the photos where I’m less than a year old, making it more or less sixty. He fastened the pieces together with finish nails.

The bookcase is now half as tall as it used to be. I inherited the bottom half and my brother has the top. It never had many books on it, unless you count the scrapbooks of our family vacations. Mom made one of those each year.

Pop in his twenties

Pop in his twenties

Mary and I had the bookcase in storage for a while after selling the Vancouver, WA condo we’d bought to be close to Pop but give Mary a place to continue her mortgage business. With Pop gone and the mortgage business imploding with the rest of the financial sector, we didn’t need the condo anymore and were able to sell it. The bookcase and other stuff went into storage.

The more-or-less instant collecting of stuff forces one to consider “do we really need this?” The bookcase is no expensive heirloom, judging from the knots in the wood, Pop fashioned it from inexpensive shop-grade pine. The answer was yes. It’s simply priceless.

As we looked for where to put the folks’ bookcase, we found our current bookshelves groaning under the weight of books. In some cases, we’d stacked books on top of books and had the rows double-parked. We took semi-immediate action.

We closed the door. Can’t be too careful.

We then had the brilliant idea to cull books out. Perhaps we could make a little money from Powell’s Books. But what is the right way to decide which books to keep and which to part with?

An essay by Laura Miller titled, “The Well-Tended Bookshelf” on nytimes.com caught my eye. She too had noticed that her collection had “metastasized” and soon she might be overwhelmed by paper.

She says there are two schools of thought about book collections. They are either, 1) “a self-portrait, a reflection of the owner’s intellect, imagination, taste and accomplishments” or 2) “less as a testimony to the past than as a repository for the future; it’s where you put the books you intend to read.”

In they end, using a method of each of us picking the sell/donate books off the shelf and then the other having veto over the other’s selection, we found that it’s a combination of the two systems.

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