Last week Tunku Vararadajan (I checked the spelling this time) wrote in the Wall Street Journal a short essay on the death of Anna Nicole Smith which was the most sensible of the few that I read or listened to. This week, in the same place he writes an even better column on culling the herd of books one collects over the years.
I recommend this little essay because I am in a similar fix, not because we are moving, but because the size of our house is finite. In the past whenever I was moved to make some room on the bookshelves I think I just took the purpose to be that I would never look at the ones I was hauling to Rocky Mountain College Library again anyway, and if I changed my mind, I could always hike over to the library, only about a 10 minute walk from my front door. I was a little miffed when I discovered a downtown used book store had shelves of my stuff soon after I donated it.
After giving it some thought, other purposes come to mind: What would be useful books to have close at hand for the rest of my declining years? The problem with this approach is that I might wind up buying a whole lot more when I realized the large number of books around that I should have read many years ago. What about some nicely bound classics or some first printings to impress one’s book-knowing friends? I do have a few friends in this category. How about the 100 or maybe 1000 Best/Necessary/Useful Books to have in your personal library? There are problems with that approach as well.
Anyway, go read Mr Vararadajan, this week in the Wall Street Journal, and probably in the future too. The only thing I can add is a reply if someone foolishly asks you “Have you read all these books?” You quickly say that “if a man has read all the books in his library, then his library is too small.”