Monday Musing: Rebuilding A Lost Book Collection

As I’ve mentioned (read complained about) a few times before, one of the low points of the past couple of years was parting with most of my book collection. Between the ages of 16 and 24, I moved country every couple of years (not evading the law, I promise) and, as a result, it was almost impossible for me to build up a personal library. Once I settled properly back in the UK, I worked hard on accumulating books wherever I could, with the assumption that they’d be mine for good. A twist of fate brought an American man into my life, however, and 18 months ago I moved to the US, donating about 80% of the many books that I’d purchased over the four years I had lived stably in one place. It was a pretty devastating farewell. I’ve always been someone disinclined to change, which is kind of a surprise given the amount of moving about I’ve done. I relish in stability and the feeling of home. For me, books represent a key part of this security. Although my collection was a relatively new one, each purchase had brought me closer to the sense of permanency and grounding that I’d been missing, and seeking, for many years. To say goodbye to all of this was incredibly difficult.

There are, however, a couple of upsides to this story. The first is that I got to donate a lot of amazing books. Having volunteered in charity shops for much of my adult life, I know how important these donations are and I loved the idea that my favourite books might take on that status for someone else. The second positive is that I’ve been given the opportunity to build that sense of home somewhere new, with my husband in tow. I get to repeat the searching out of books as part of establishing stability and permanency here. Looking for new second-hand and independent bookshops has become one of my favourite hobbies since, practically speaking, I definitely need a bargain when I’m trying to replenish an entire collection. I still think quite often about what I was able to build for myself in the UK – the attention that I paid to picking out the right shelving and organising my book collection exactly right. Whether I’ll recapture that in its totality, I’m not entirely sure. But I’m certainly enjoying the process of trying.

Virginia Woolf

3 thoughts on “Monday Musing: Rebuilding A Lost Book Collection

  1. I think about my collection of classics and how’s it’s grown considerably over the last few years. The thought of parting with it is hard to process. But the fact that you’ve had to do it a few times…..wow. I love your perspective about donating them to shops where others will enjoy memorable moments of finding “that book”- I know that feeling so I hope if I have to part with my books, I’ll be able to have a similar outlook

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    1. I think that there’s always going to be a lot of challenge in parting with books that mean so much. I guess I’ve really had to shift my perspective because it isn’t something that I’ve had a lot of choice in (shipping costs are the WORST). That said, I did insist on bringing my favourite books with me so fortunately I didn’t lose all of them!

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