I learned long ago to reject the pack rat life style. In the past five years I’ve had seven addresses and have therefore gotten very good at packing, traveling light, and throwing things away.* I’ve learned to only buy things I absolutely love and know I will get good use out of. This is all well and good, however there were always certain things I could never throw away no matter how much my practicality protested.
I hoard books to the point where someone from TLC should come to my home and embarrass me. I keep books that I never read. I keep text books I never intend on using again. I keep paperbacks with broken bindings. My copies of The Diary of Anne Frank and Harry Potter and Sorcerer’s Stone are literally in two pieces, but I will never let go of either. It also doesn’t help that I inherited my older siblings’ books or, like Lori, was an English major in college. By the way, here’s something they don’t tell you before you declare: due to finicky policies about specific editions and introductions, most English majors will end up wasting their money and life space on duplicates. By graduation, I somehow ended up with multiple copies of Shakespeare’s complete works, Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park (3 copies = too much Fanny Price), Emma, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Lolita (When you own multiple copies of that particular novel, people start to think you’re creepy – and rightfully so.), Yeats’ complete collection of poetry, As I Lay Dying…the list goes on, but I’ll spare you.
Clearly, I have a problem.
I attempted to lighten my literary load when I returned to my parents’ house this Christmas. As a dug through boxes of books I stumbled across one genre that tugged at my heart strings…children’s literature. After that, I swear I lost all focus on my greater goal and, instead, hunkered down in my parents’ basement and proceeded to sift through each copy as if I were looking through a photo album. Some of the prized gems included…
- The Giver – like a hybrid of Farhenheit 451 or 1984, but with training wheels
- Random fantasy books by Tamora Pierce – Lauren and I loved this author so much in 5th/6th grade, I’m pretty sure we started a club. It’s hard to remember since I try my best to block out my lamest memories…
- Almost everything Judy Blume ever wrote – You can laugh all you want, but even now I think Judy Blume kicks some serious you-know-what. She’s one of the authors most listed on ALA’s top 100 commonly challenged books in the U.S. (beating more predictable choices like Twain) because she candidly wrote about the real problems young girls face with topics like religion, divorce, and puberty. She was pretty much the first person to touch those subjects in books specifically for children. Give respect where respect is due, people.
- The American Girl Books – They should burn the modern dolls and force the girls to read the historical books instead. I had complete sets for Molly, Addy, and Felicity.
- Anne of Green Gables (and all subsequent sequels) – Even now, at twenty-two, I still think this character talks too much. I used to skim over her random tangents about the Lake of Shinning Water and what not. Still loved it, though.
- Little House on the Prairie – staple to any young girl’s literary experience. It’s also practical because it teaches you how to shoot a bear and smoke the meat. Obviously, I put this knowledge to good use later in life.
- All things Roald Dahl – The BFG, Boy, The Twits, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach were all there. After reading Matilda in elementary school I remember sitting down in my room and attempting to move things with my mind. I was unsuccessful.
Before I throw away, sell, or donate any book, I go through a series of questions in my mind that make it nearly impossible for me to let it go: Is it possible that I will want to reread this even one more time? Does this have useful information I will need to reference on a later date (see above: Little House on the Prairie)? Even if I hated this book with the passion of 1,000 suns, will it look good on the future book shelf in my imaginary, sophisticated home? Will my hypothetical children want to read this? Even if they don’t, will I read this to my hypothetical children (using dramatic voices, etc.)? Usually, the answer to at least one of those questions is yes and the vicious cycle continues. Oh well. I guess there are worst things I could collect…
As time goes by, I’m hoping to become less emotionally attached to some of the misfit stories and authors in my childhood collection. Of course, there are some books that I am confident will never be thrown away. These are the children’s books that all adults should read and learn from:**
- Le Petit Prince – see picture to the right for a test of character
- Chronicles of Narnia – Always and forever…
- Peter and Wendy – So you can remember how to get to Neverland: “If you shut your eyes and are a lucky one, you may see at times a shapeless pool of lovely pale colours suspended in the darkness; then if you squeeze your eyes tighter, the pool begins to take shape, and the colours become so vivid that with another squeeze they must go on fire. But just before they go on fire you see the lagoon…”
*In the process of getting my BA, I also earned a PHD in packing and moving (Disertation entitled How to Guilt Sprightly Young Men into Carrying Heavy Items from your Car to your Dorm).
**Harry Potter is a given. I shouldn’t even have to mention it.