Living without my books
Once upon a time, not too long ago, there lived a girl who believed that living without stuffed bookshelves was a form of intellectual and interior design death. She silently judged apartments that had no bookshelves and flushed with happiness at ones that barely had room to walk amidst the piles of books and teetering shelves.
Then, reality check: the girl moved to a small island and left behind 80% of her belongings, including all her books, in a storage unit on the mainland. This was considered a temporary and distressing situation and the girl firmly believed she would be reunited with her beloved books in three months’ time.
Well, I’m here on the other side of nine months to tell you that that didn’t happen and I, the girl who couldn’t imagine living without books, have been doing so with surprising contentedness for that whole time. I don’t have any bookshelves in my current space, nor did I in any of the other places I’ve lived since moving to Nantucket, and I keep what few books I do have on the mantlepiece in my bedroom.
Those mantlepiece books are a collection of favorites that came with me from New York and a random assortment I’ve acquired or been given since moving here. There are only about twenty books in all, some of which I’ve read and some of which are still on the TBR list, and I find that I don’t miss the rest of my collection at all. (Or, at least, very rarely. And usually when missing a very particular tome rather than the collection as a whole.)
In living apart from most of my books, I’ve discovered that there are actually benefits to doing so:
1. I use the library so much more.
Without the pressure to read all the books I already own, I’m freer to read anything. And what better place to read anything at all than the library? This is my favorite side effect by far and the idea that I can read any book I want FOR FREE has yet to get old. I don’t have to worry about cost, space, or even aesthetics: any book I want to read is in and out of my life with no hassle at all except the lovely walk to and from the stacks.
2. Moving is much easier.
I’ve moved eight times since I came to Nantucket in May 2014. Believe me, making moving easier is now a vital part of my life. So not having 20+ boxes of books to pack and unpack is a big plus.
3. Book acquisition is a much more serious endeavor.
Whereas before I would buy books with fairly gay abandon (pocketbook allowing, of course), I am now much more thoughtful about what I need and want to own. Why hello, disposable income!
I’m not going to lie to you and say that I don’t still drool over interiors packed with books. Nor can I honestly say living without books is my long-term life plan. Far from it! When I finally settle somewhere, I intend to be as surrounded by the written word as is humanly possible.
But, at the same time, I’m really enjoying trying out this more minimalist approach to books. My ability to adapt to it has surprised me and the unanticipated side effects are proving pretty great.
So how about you, dear readers? Do you live amongst books or in a relatively book-free zone?