Cleaning Out Books Today

I never know why these moods strike me but every once in a while I get this unstoppable compulsion to purge my bookshelves. Of course I am regularly buying new books to read, and because I’m not a rich guy with a huge library, I have to get rid of some periodically. I feel like books add to the home’s decor, but not everyone on my home agrees . . .

A day like today must have all the planets in line. It usually starts with finding one book and admitting that I don’t need it. The couple that circumstance with an unusually large piling of books, new purchases with nowhere on the shelves to rest. And have that happen on a day that I don’t have anything planned, nothing really going.

When I was younger, in college and in my twenties, before marriage and children, before home ownership, before a busy writing career, I used to read everything, from Penguin translations of ancient philosophy to Beatnik memoirs or the letters of Henry Miller and Anais Nin. And a lot of those books are still laying around from the days when I would take $20 to the used bookstore and come out with a stack of stuff. Of course, a lot of the books I have already purged from those days were purchased back when the internet wasn’t really around, and having reference books was pretty useful. And then there are other things I bought but have never read, then finally I admit that I never will, like two copies I have of Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past” novels: The Guermantes’ Way and The Past Recaptured.

When I get rid of books, I like to donate them to the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project, which establishes and stocks prison libraries in Alabama, among other things. That’s likely what I’ll do with these stacks, too. There is a myth that prison inmates live these posh lives of working out and watching cable TV, but in Alabama that isn’t the case. Even books are a luxury there. The main things, for me, about getting rid of books is that they fall into the hands of people who will read them.

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