I really liked the Weekly Writing Challenge that WordPress put out there this week. Along with many other folks, this week I’ll be reflecting on something that I just can’t seem to throw away. 

There are two copies of John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding on my bookshelf. They are identical, and each contains an equal amount of underlines and margin-scribbles in my handwriting. I don’t know how or why I have two copies of this text, and they look pretty stupid sitting next to each other in the middle of my shelf. But I can’t seem to get rid of the extra (which one is the extra anyway? How am I supposed to decide which one is worth keeping?). So, they sit there redundantly.

I don’t consider myself to be a packrat. I move pretty frequently, which gives me regular opportunities to purge and organize my belongings. Nor am I super sentimental. I like to live in the present and not hold on to things simply because of what they mean to my memory. My books are the exception here. Each time I move, they get strategically boxed up and lugged to their new home, and reshelved with great thought and care.

A little over half of my books, circa the last time I moved.

A little over half of my books, circa the last time I moved.

But I haven’t picked up most (any?) of them since they were most recently unpacked. I’ve read most of them once, but probably won’t read them again. Some were gifts or assignments I ignored, and I won’t be reading them at all. Some are duplicates – Locke’s Essay is joined by a few other classics in my roster of books that should probably be donated, which also includes Shakespeare’s complete works (I have two copies of the largest book in the English language — why…). If I were more logical, I would part with all but a few of my books, especially when it comes time to once again pack them up.

That’s not going to happen though. Some people collect photographs or sentimental trinkets, but somewhere along the line I subconsciously decided to collect something much heavier and harder to move. In addition to being wildly inconvenient, my books are basically useless, especially if I never really read them. But I’m sitting here looking at their spines, and each one is a part of my story (plot twist!/double pun/sorry). Each one was purchased for a reason, and most are associated with a professor, or classmate, or question, or idea that has formed me in some way simply because it was there and it happened. Some of them make me smile, but not necessarily because of their content. All contain ideas that I’m not ready to dispose of yet, and I’m not sure I ever will or ever should be.

Maybe I am sentimental after all.


  1. Ah, the shelves overflowing with books and duplicate books (try being an art history teacher who marries an art history teacher… really, such a fire hazard all those Art Through the Ages books on our shelves.) But you’re so right. They are your history. A back-breaking load of history.
    Lovely post.


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