During the later spring days of 2017, one of my email interlocutors and I decided that we would attempt to move our email-based current affairs dialogue to a book-club format. After a brief search, my friend recommended the Goodreads platform and we decide to go with it. The platform really has all the tools you need to start connecting with people who are interested in books.
Shortly after launching the club, I registered myself for Goodreads’ 2017 challenge, which is that website’s method to draw the obsessive-compulsive reader into setting and tracking book-reading goals. As a social media pursuit – that’s actually surprisingly productive and enriching. My own goal is to read 52 books for the 2017 year. One per week. For me, very attainable.
While back-tracking to enter some of the books I’d read earlier in the year, it occurred to me that I may as well go ahead and enter some of the other books on my shelf. It is, after all, probable that I’d read some of them again – that’s why they’re still on the shelf, right?
Well, not really. Many of the books on my shelf are there not because I intend (or need) to re-read them…but only as a comfort and bit of nostalgia. I really don’t need them, but I’m loathe to give them up….this may sound familiar to anyone who has a habit of retaining physical objects way past the time that they’ve served their probably usefulness.
Getting rid of un-necessary objects is a feature of “minimalism” – a way of living with fewer possessions.
This is where I discovered Goodreads as a valuable tool for a minimalistic approach to book collection. By entering books into Goodreads, I find myself released from the compulsion to keep the objects themselves. Having the “collection” at hand as an electronic avatar of my collection has made the collection less important to me.
Some people might suggest that reading books in digital form would perform a similar function, but I don’t like reading books on screens. I like reading from something that doesn’t glow in my face or require electricity to operate. I’m not likely to give up books as my preferred reading vehicle!
That being said, I’ve given up lots of books over the years – primarily when moving or when the books themselves are damaged. But I also recently started to give up a lot of books while attempting to reduce the sometimes overwhelming physical (and emotional) presence of so many objects in my life (minimalism). I’d gotten my personal library down to something like 100-150 books. At one time my personal library was more than 1000 books.
And so I’ve found in Goodreads a terrific tool to let me remember the books I’ve read without the compulsion to own the physical objects. A list in a notebook might have done the same thing, and I do have a journal somewhere with lists of books I read. But lists aren’t very satisfying.
In addition to Goodreads, I’ve also taken to the habit of taking notes from the books I read when I come across something I particularly enjoy or find valuable. I won’t need to come back to some of the books which contain only a handful of ideas that I want to recall.
I’ve discovered a strange combination of truths for my library:
- I want to try to remember and document every book I’ve ever read – a task that is probably impossible at this point in my life. In a sense I want to remember where my intellectual/reader journey has taken me.
- I currently want to focus my library in a very narrow group of interests. I can think of 4 key areas. I no longer feel that I have time (or space) for everything.
And so I’m re-circulating more of the books I’ve hoarded in my personal library through my favorite venue: public library second-hand shops. In a handful of days, I’ve lightened my book load by approximately 30 books and quite a few pounds. And I don’t expect to miss them.
Photo: St. Thomas City Hall Building c. 2012.
Revision History Notes: All content on http://www.ericadriaans.com and http://www.thedrutherspress.com is subject to edit and revision. Whenever possible, dates of revisions will be note. Original post 07/02/2017. Updated 07/12/2017.