Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Sixteen tons

One observation I made during the process of moving was that I have TOO MANY GODDAMN BOOKS! Crate upon crate of them, and I packed and loaded and unloaded every one (approx. 10100 of them). My body is still complaining.

I also have a Nook and a Kindle, and they probably hold another few boxes of books themselves — except that schlepping them around is as easy as hauling a single book. And this makes me think, despite my affection for the physical book and all it represents (everything from the fabled smell to the sentimental attachment), are we not ridiculous for lugging these millstones through life?

Honest to God, I have a few moldy oldies that are scarcely younger than me! A lot of them, of course, I picked up in college, and their pages are now yellow and fragile — we didn’t have your fancy acid-free paper in those days — but they’re marked up with my post-adolescent marginalia, and some of them still sport bookmarks I stuck in them when Jimmy Carter was president. How can I part with those? Then there are the dozens of books I snagged while going to school in England, purchased at such celebrated shops as Foyles and Dillons (the latter defunct now), not to mention the many used-book joints whose names I’ll never be able to recall.

And what about the books important people gave to me? A copy of Walden my dad inscribed for my sixteenth birthday. A little collection of folk songs, in which the handwriting of my high school girlfriend is still to send me hurtling through time. Books that I’ve only read once but that have some kind of powerful pull on me and are impossible to let go of.

Cleaning them up and packing them was like reading thirty years of my own diaries.

I’m not sure when I’ll get around to unpacking them and displaying them on the new bookshelves, but since we don’t intend to move again (seriously), I guess I won’t be faced with the dilemma of whether to drag them to the next stop. They seem to be here to stay.


13 comments on “Sixteen tons

  1. Dylan Hearn
    April 2, 2015

    I’m sorry, you lost me at this point: “I have TOO MANY GODDAMN BOOKS.”
    There is no such thing. It’s always too little storage or too little time that’s the problem. 😉

  2. Phillip McCollum
    April 2, 2015

    I think that’s a pain point for all of us. I went through the same thing. I had to come to terms with the fact that a lot of them were impulse buys that simply took up space, but I made sure to keep the ones that, as you so aptly illustrated, document the history of our lives.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 2, 2015

      Definitely a lot of them were spur of the moment. And some seem hopelessly dated or faddish. We did get rid of two big boxes worth, though…

  3. John W. Howell
    April 2, 2015

    Nature solved my problem when I lived in Sonoma. The sump pump quit and my books were drenched with rising water. Most a total loss. Keep em safe

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 2, 2015

      Oh, John, sorry to hear that. I had a bunch of LPs damaged that way years ago, but I still couldn’t part with them. At least LPs can still be played…

      • John W. Howell
        April 2, 2015

        My books caught a mold. LIke Zoolander “it’s the black lung pop.”

  4. Charles Yallowitz
    April 2, 2015

    I’ve given up believing that I can read my entire collection. My plan is to do the best that I can.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 2, 2015

      They’re happy if you just leaf through them now and then… 😉

  5. denizb33
    April 2, 2015

    10k! I thought I was bad with 3k! We put most of them in storage when we moved overseas –okay, all. I can’t bear to part with any! And we’ve already got a few hundred in the new place…

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 2, 2015

      I think I exaggerated a little, since 10 to the hundredth power is 10000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000. It just FELT like that many!

  6. 1WriteWay
    April 3, 2015

    This is a great line: “Cleaning them up and packing them was like reading thirty years of my own diaries.” Some of the books I can’t part with are like that for me, more important because they remind me of a particular time in my life than for the book itself.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 3, 2015

      It’s true. You realize that your books are actual relics of your journey, like bus tickets and museum receipts. Only more profound…

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