A few years ago, another bookshelf made its way into my bedroom. As the ample built-in bookshelf that had already graced the area was starting to acquire a sort of double-stacked look, and extra books were finding their way into cupboards and other piles around the room, the purchase definitely qualified as a necessity.
The new bookcase alleviated shelf constraints … for a while. But soon I found myself buying a third bookcase. Unfortunately, the shelves on that latest addition are now rapidly becoming less empty, and it may take some creative thinking to find room for the next bookshelf that’s likely to join my fleet down the road.
I suppose it’s pack rats (or book rats?) like me toward whom Dorie Chevlen directed her recent “Get Rid of Your Books” piece published at “Slate.” Ms. Chevlen seems to take a Marie Kondo approach to books, arguing that they “should be read, then shown the door.”
While I somewhat sympathize with Ms. Chevlen’s desire to reduce clutter and share with others, I believe she minimizes the value of books by advocating for owners to send them out the door as soon as they’re read. Books are more valuable than simply a nicely bound shelf decoration; indeed, they foster a mindset that our culture has lost, and encouraging that mindset by collecting books, both for our children and ourselves, is vital for the preservation of society, something that writings from C.S. Lewis confirm.
Books Challenge Our Thinking
“A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading,” Mr. Lewis writes in “Surprised by Joy.” “There are traps everywhere.” In other words, surrounding ourselves with books enables us to expand our horizons and broaden our minds.
As a researcher and writer, I’ve read a number of prominent works over the years. I could have crossed these works off my list, patting myself on the back that I successfully conquered a certain volume. Instead, I’ve returned to many of them repeatedly, gleaning new insights as I grow in life experience or encounter new challenges in the world. As Mr. Lewis implies, books challenge our thinking, and the individual who fills his personal library with good books, perusing them regularly, will keep the well of the mind fresh with sound wisdom, preparing him for the fight in the battle of ideas that seems to escalate daily.
Books Hold Fond Memories
“There is something awfully nice about reading a book again, with all the half-conscious memories it brings back,” Mr. Lewis wrote in a letter to Arthur Greeves, noting that a particular book reminded him of a walk the two had taken once, “because I was reading it then.”
I know a similar feeling. The rocky beaches of Lake Superior remind me of “Jane Eyre,” where I first began getting into that classic work. Picking up “The Story of Holly and Ivy” reminds me of the childhood Christmas my mom and I stayed up late reading it by the Christmas tree. Other books, some with tear-stained pages and much underlining, remind me of difficult times, but they also cause me to rejoice in remembering the truths they delivered in times of emotional need.
Thus, preserving books and storing them carefully in our own home libraries help us to remember the past, while also helping us to mark time and chart our spiritual, mental, physical, and emotional growth in life.
Books Help Us Savor Beauty
It is the “unliterary man … who reads books once only,” Mr. Lewis wrote in “Of Other Worlds.” “We do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading,” he continued. “Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties.”
I concur. L.M. Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables” series is one collection of books I’ve reread or savored numerous times, and such rereading promotes a familiarity allowing me to call on the series for quotes, provide humorous anecdotes to throw into conversations, and even discover nuggets of wisdom I initially overlooked. My “Anne” volumes aren’t fancy; in fact, they’re rather dogeared. But their ready availability continues to provide a reference and insight into life that I wouldn’t have if I’d neglected savoring them and instead approached them with a one-and-done mentality.
Books Transcend Age
“I need not remind such an audience as this that the neat sorting-out of books into age-groups, so dear to publishers, has only a very sketchy relation with the habits of any real readers,” Mr. Lewis wrote in “On Three Ways of Writing for Children.” “Those of us who are blamed when old for reading childish books were blamed when children for reading books too old for us. No reader worth his salt trots along in obedience to a time-table.”
Unfortunately, this “neat sorting-out of books into age-groups” that Mr. Lewis condemns is exactly what you get when books go out the door as soon as they’re read. Yet such a mindset inhibits interaction between the generations, preventing a legacy from being passed along from the older to the younger through books. Keeping them, however, opens a door of wisdom and maturity for the young, while providing youth and hope for the old.
This doesn’t mean that we should never get rid of books. After all, there is some truly trashy literature out there that really doesn’t deserve our time or space. Giving all our books a type of Marie Kondo treatment, however, causes us to miss out on some of life’s finest blessings.
One day, if we descend into a totalitarian society where books and the truths they contain are taboo or hard to find, we’ll wish that we’d heeded the call to preserve books in our own home libraries.
This article is republished with permission from The Epoch Times.
Image Credit: Pexels