Parting with Dead Tree Books - Jo-Ann Carson

Parting with Dead Tree Books

A beach on Gabriola Island

We headed over to our cabin on Gabriola for the Victoria Day long weekend, with books, newspapers and a long list of To-Dos. I had my laptop, but forgot my power cord. Looking back I wonder if a part of me planned that. My only connection with the world was a cell phone, and that doesn’t work so well over there as signal strength is shall we say “occasional”.
Saturday, we drank in the sunny weather and spent hours on the back deck listening to the quiet. The island is more still than I ever remember it being. But the birds, and sea lions don’t care one bit.
Sunday was overcast and Monday it poured. There was plenty of time to do my list of  chores, basically a good thorough spring cleaning. But I’m getting older, so I work on spot cleaning and let go of any pretense of getting everything clean. What’s the point. It just gets dirty again.
My focus this weekend was on one book case in the guest room that has been overflowing with paperbacks for years. Every time I look at it I sigh with a mixture of disgust, at the disorderliness of it, and pleasure, remembering the  hours I spent reading those books. It’s a collection of mysteries, and thrillers written in the last century. Books you take on vacation. Books that remind me of times past when I read them. Books that have a place in my heart.
“It’s time to purge,” I say, armed with boxes and a dust cloth.
But these dead tree artifacts are treasure,” a little voice whispers inside of me.
I sort through the books. The pages yellowing and faded are crisp to the touch. I hold them carefully, memories flowing through my fingers. Words, stories–books — mean so much to a reader. They people our lives in a way nothing else can.
Can I let go of them?
I start tossing, gently. I keep my collection of Agatha Christie. That’s a given for me. But do I need a copy of every Nevada Barr, John Sandford or James Lee Burke? Kricky, it’s  hard. What about my Chrichton, Follet and …the list goes on… collections. “The books are not getting read in my basement,” I tell myself, ” but they will if they make it to a used book store.”
I have to do t his. I keep a sampling of each author, but I don’t have time to mull over which individual titles I want. I could be choosing the wrong ones.
Why the Hell didn’t I  start that reader’s diary I always intended to write. Why? Time, of course. It’s always about time. So I keep some in one box, and send others to the Used Bookstore box. It’s a painful process shrouded in dust and memories.
I surface after a couple of hours with three boxes to keep and three to send. I’m covered in grime and feeling a wee bit grim.
Getting rid of old clothes is hard, but books are harder. I found it particularly difficult because we are in the midst of a digital revolution. Will I ever be able to ‘have and hold’ theses stories in a paper book again? What about my grandchildren? I’m not usually sentimental, but this was excrutiatingly hard for me.
I’m not so good at spring cleaning.
Next trip…the vinyl record collection:)