I love books. The feel of them, the look of them, the smell of them. The feeling of comfort being surrounded by them, and the wealth of knowledge, emotion and amazing tales the house within their pages.
Mum loved books too. In fact, like me, she collected shelves and shelves of them. I need to be strong and keep clearing more space, ready to make this house my own, but what do you do about books? It’s so hard to part with them. Each time I glance at a box I see another title jump out and I’m tempted to pluck it out and add it to my never-ending pile of “must-reads”.
I can’t though. I can’t just keep hanging on to everything. I’m trying to be good. I’m trying to declutter. So that means that books will have to go. I can’t just box them up and let them go though. That library of books that mum built up over her lifetime, they echo her and her interests. I feel her close when I pick up the yellowing pages of the Colloquial Egyptian Arabic Dictionary, knowing she would have spent hours looking through and reciting their contents. The Catalogue of Antiquities of the Cairo Museum and a 1960 guide to Egypt. Those are all part of the life she lead. Working in Egypt for over a year – a pioneer of the ‘year out’ you might say – learning the language, exploring the museum and all its treasures.
Then there are the craft books – silver-smithing, jewellery making, patchwork, weaving, knitting, and of course shoe-making. She did all of these things. Her wonderful creativity reflected in the many boxes of wool, material samples, beads and more. I’m yet to sort through these all properly. I’m dying to find someone with a love of stitching or knitting, who might take on the challenge of making me something beutiful that I can enjoy, in return for the rest of the materials. The eight-volume set, bound in dark green, Boots and Shoes: Their Manufacture, Making and Selling, is a wonderful repository of historical shoe-making techniques.
There are book about artists, collections of poems, one even has a personal poem inscribed inside the front cover, by the poet, and author of the book, Adrian Henri. There are novels by Orwell, Camus, Golding and Kafka. Books about teaching, introducing maths, children with special educational needs. Books about gardening, travelling, West African folk tales and from female Egyptian novelists. It’s a real mixed collection. A real reflection of some of her loves, interests and life.
So what do I do with them? I’ve got a catalogue so I can go back and read what she read one day. I don’t need the physical books. But I was always taught to treasure things. We didn’t have much when I was growing up, so we treasured those things we did have. We looked after everything, kept it nice. Saved odd bits of string “because it might come in useful one day”, recycled what there really was no use for. We didn’t really get rid of things that weren’t still useful, and books are always useful. So what do I do?
I could just give them all to a charity shop, but I’m saving up to go on an exciting university course, that I’m sure mum would be excited by too, so maybe I should try to get some money for them? I thought about a second hand book seller, but I doubt I’d get very much, even selling so many. If I’m not going to get much, then I think I’d rather see them go to good homes, people who will enjoy them at least. People have suggested I try Amazon marketplace, but there are so many, and I just don’t quite have the time to list them all and the faff with posting them out. So what should I do?
It’s hard letting go of books. Might you have a good home for any of them? If you’d like to help me get to space university perhaps we could swap? A few pennies towerds my dream in exchange for an interesting book or two? Here’s a list of mum’s books and a few others from around the house. If you’d like any, please let me know.
8 thoughts on “Books, books, books”
Judging by your post I take it you have just lost your Mum. I know that it seems a little crass to express emotions like this in a note to a blog post, but please accept my heartfelt and sincere condolences for your loss.
I lost my Grandfather in 1996; he was like a Father to me and everything I am today I owe to him. I miss him but I live my life according to the values he taught me and I like to think that by doing so I keep a part of him with me always.
I am not a religious man but I believe that those we love live on through the influence their love for us has on our lives.
I feel the same way about books as you do. There is nothing like the smell of a second hand bookshop. It instantly evokes the excitement, thrill and wonder of that awe struck moment when one finds something new, or even better, something old that has been lost to us for many years.
I’m afraid I can’t really give you any useful advice. In your place I would probably keep them. I suspect the best thing to do is what you have done. Publish the list online and let them slowly filter off. As your Mothers’ books are spread to the four winds, so her influence will be felt and enrich the lives of people she never even met. Somebody somewhere will experience the breathless joy that comes from starting that first page..and your Mum couldn’t really have a better memorial.
What has happened to Space Kate? The site seems to be down. It would be a great shame and a greater loss if it disappeared.
Disaster struck spacekate.com this week. My friend’s server was hacked, all was lost, hosting company apparently have no back up. Cry.
I have the text (thankfully) via Google reader. Piecing the site back together will take time and I fear kind comments lost. I’m going to trawl cached versions and try to recreate it all. I am very sad, but not quite beaten yet.
Thank you for taking the time to leave this comment. It means a lot. I do my best to carry mum with me and live life for us both.
You are more than welcome. I am glad to see that Space Kate is back up and running, and that you mentioned Black Arrow; a subject close to my heart. I hope you enjoy your time in Florida.
I faced a similar quandry recently. I blogged about my thoughts on books.
What I decided to do was keep all the books which had real sentimental value. I took the rest to charity shops. If you’re looking to raise a bit of cash, Amazon have a trade in programme.
What made it easier for me was replacing the physical books with ebooks. All the fun and memories – none of the physical space.
As a horder of far too many books I feel the pain. I personally now have a pile off books (as well as 4 huge bookcases full of them) that I’m wondering what to do with, that perhaps I feel I need to get rid of in some uncertain way I have not quite worked out yet. I would be interested to know how the Amazon trade account goes, is it better than ebay?
I know this is a old post.
But I was wondering if you have the 8 volume shoe books left?
I would absolutly love to get hold of a set of those books.
Please let me know
I actually still have them. There was a lovely chap in Portland that I was talking to, but it didn’t quite work out. Are you a shoemaker too?
Oh, ok. Maybe lucky for me then, if you are willing to let them go. ;)
Yes, I’m a Shoemaker in Sweden. And so is my parents and my granddad before them an so on.
So I was born in to this trade and world with a great love to shoes.