Rob Buchanan is the Sales Coordinator in Marketing and an experienced Twinkie chef.
It is almost impossible for me to get rid of a book. The first books I ever bought were paperbacks of the Belgariad series by David Eddings. I bought them when they were fairly new back in the late 1980s. I didn’t take care of my books back then like I do now, so they have seen a lot of wear and tear. I’m not sure they would survive another reading, so if I ever get the desire to read the series again, I will probably have to buy new copies. Still, there is no way I can get rid of those books.
When my wife and I moved into our current house several years ago she asked if I could get rid of some books. When I was in high school I joined the Science Fiction Book Club. I can’t remember exactly when, but it would have been in 1987 or 1988. I am still a member today and I have never stopped buying books from them. So my wife asking that I get rid of some books was completely reasonable. I think she said, “We don’t have room for all of these books. Could you please get rid of some of them?” What I heard was, “You need to pick some of your friends you never want to see again, stuff them in boxes, and go give them to a stranger who won’t like them nearly as much as you do.”
I confess I panicked for a while but the rational part of my mind knew my wife was right, so I had to perform a delicate balancing act. I had to find the smallest number of books I could stand to part with that would also make my wife feel that I was making an effort. Given my completely reasonable attachment to my books, I didn’t know how I was going to manage. Luckily, I came across a couple of boxes of books that I had never managed to unpack when we moved the last time. They were all books from various college courses that the bookstore didn’t buy back. I hadn’t read or really thought about any of those books in over ten years, so I was able to give them to the stranger at a used book store without too many tears. I did rescue Catch 22 by Joseph Heller and Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, but I was able to get rid of the 1992 Norton Anthology of Literature without too much trouble.
I don’t know why I have such a strong attachment to my books. Sometimes when I walk past a bookshelf a book will catch my eye and I will remember part of the story or where I was when I read it. For instance, I took the Belgariad books on vacation to a lake with my family the summer I bought them. Sometimes, when I see them on the shelf, I flash back to that vacation. I can almost feel the warm sun shining on my back while fishing or I get a flash of memory of sitting outside the camper, reading in the late afternoon. That’s probably why I am so attached to those particular books. And even though I don’t have singularly powerful experiences with all of the books I own, I still have a deep attachment to many of them.
I have vivid memories of reading Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries on cold winter days while listening to Kiss and AC/DC albums, when I was a kid, but I don’t own any of those books, I have no plans to buy them, and I don’t feel a strong attachment to them.
I read Catch 22 for a class in college and loved it. I tried to read it again a few years ago as part of a book club with a few friends and I couldn’t finish it. I don’t know why I had a hard time with it the second time through. I’m not sure I will ever try to read it again, but I do know I am going to keep it.
I think part of my attachment has to do with how I acquire a book. I am much more attached to the books that I bought new, at least for the most part. Every year our public libraries have a huge sale where you can get a paperback for $.50 and a hardback for $1. I have a small bookshelf full of books I got from those sales. I have never got around to reading most of them and I don’t have a strong attachment to them. I think that is largely due to the fact that I got them used. However, I got my first Robert Ludlum book in the clearance section of a half price bookstore. I read it and enjoyed it a lot, so I bought a good number of other books by him, mostly from other used bookstores, and I am fairly attached to them. So until I get around to reading the used books from the library and possibly forming an attachment to them, they are the sacrifices that will be offered up if I have to get rid of books again.
I’m not entirely sure what any of these allegiances and non-allegiances mean, and I’m not certain I have truly figured out what triggers each reaction. All I do know is being this attached to books is normal.It’s the people who aren’t attached to books who are odd.