I sat on the floor and taped the lid on my 200 and something box of books as we packed to move. Stopping for a moment, I looked around me at the bookcases still stacked full of books and thought of the bookcases in the other rooms of our home that I had not even gone through to thin out. How on earth had we ever amassed such a collection of reading? What was interesting was the fact that it was not just a stack of books in basically one category or genre, but was spread across the wide range of interests that my husband and I shared. Well, I would have to admit that I had hoarded every book I had obtained from my youth, even my high school textbooks and binders of notes from my favorite subjects. It was almost embarrassing.
We had books that had been passed down through our family from the late 1800’s that had come out west on a train or in a buckboard wagon, packed lovingly in a box for the trip.
There was the theological collection that my father passed on to me when he retired that had been passed down to him by a retiring minister fifty years earlier.
I could walk through the rooms and run my hands over the spines of the books and as I read the titles on the spines, the stories held within those mostly hard-backed covers would roll through my mind like a silent movie. Many of those books had been read more than once by myself, and read by more than one member of our household. Each book had a story of why it was added to our collection, with many of the reference books coming in because of the need for supplemental material for our children’s education.
One of the unique things about our library was the fact that we had so many complete works of authors. Once we found an author that we enjoyed, we would shop for their back works at used bookshops, online shops, and yard sales till we found all of the novels that he/she had written and then made a concerted effort to purchase the hardback copy of the newest work as they became available. On occasion, we had the opportunity to become acquainted with a writer and then made doubly sure to have all their signed works in our stacks. But then we also loved to study, so we would search out books on the topic that we were working on and add them to the shelf… This went on for thirty-five years. And this is where I was when I found myself sitting in the middle of the floor taping boxes. We had selectively gifted over half of our library to homeschooling friends and other friends, and still had a tremendous number of boxes of books that we just couldn’t part with.
Looking around, I thought back to my great-great-great aunt that came out on the train to teach school. She brought her precious stack of books with her in a case, and all her worldly belongings in her steamer trunk or suitcase. How could she have survived on just 15 books, but to only have the same 15 books to pour over and read for a long period of time, with a rare opportunity for a new book?
It gave me something to ponder on. My husband and I talked about it on our trip east, as we drove for five days. We were stymied and stumped. It wasn’t until a couple of years later, when I was involved in a book club, I thought to raise the question again:
“What if you were moving to a remote area where you would have very limited access to services to the outside world, and could not bring along a lot of non-essentials, such as books? You had to decide before you left which books to take with you. Due to space and weight constraints, you could only take 15 books. It is totally your choice what kind of books, how many of any one type, or author, whatever… but only a total of 15 books.”
This discussion took on a world of its’ own, with everyone talking about why they would choose they books they would take, then after discussion, make changes and refine their choices. It was wonderful.
The exercise made us all realize just how much we all take the printed word that we have available to us for granted and don’t think twice about the wonderful gift and privilege we have of the free access to such a wealth of knowledge and enjoyment. Then we discussed the fact that it isn’t just the people and children in the third world countries that don’t have ready access to books and reading material and/or uncensored reading material. There are many, many pockets of people in our own country that do not have ready access to libraries, or books, especially children.
Now, the question is put to you. If you could only have 15 books, what 15 would you choose? Why? We would love to have you share your list. Even more so, your whys.
It has been a while, so I, like you, will have to put my list back together. I will post them, with my whys in another blog in the next day or two.
Finally, while out Christmas shopping, grab a book or two (Kohls has great ones for $5.00) and drop them off at your local Marine Recruiter’s. They have a wonderful Toys for Tots campaign every Christmas. Share a book with a child. It will make them smile.
*First published on Shadetreeblogging.blogspot.com site in October 2014 (update WP site)