Saturday, August 8, 2009

Five Shelves

What was once five bookcases overflowing with additional books in piles on the floor and boxes in the closet is now five shelves. I've always had Read and Unread bookcases and have kept that split with the shelves. Here's a look at what's worth keeping for now.

1) Read books, predominantly by and about Thoreau and Abbey. Some nature writing by Robert Finch and John Hay, a couple nature study books, a couple by Roderick Nash, Tom Brown's Field Guides series, Into the Wild.

2) Read books including Shakespeare, The Alexandria Quartet, some histories of eco-radicalism, works by my two favorite Davids--Carroll and Quammen, The Abstract Wild, about a dozen fictions of eco and/or apoco variations, a few books about hiking in the Porcupine Mountains and the Boston area, The Hopes of Snakes, Writing Down the Bones which renewed my writing after a long time away, Cold Comfort about Duluth, and Landscape with Reptile, a wonderful hodgepodge (much like this shelf) of a book about rattlesnakes near Boston.

3) Field guides and such, including Audubon, Peterson, Stokes Nature Guides, Sierra Club Naturalist's Guides (I've come close to selling the ones for areas I'll never see, but haven't been able to part with them so far), the Eastman and Hansen series on plants and birds, tracking books by Elbroch and Rezendes, some specific species (whaddaya mean, it's repetitively redundant?) books including crow & raven, red fox, raccoon, bald eagle, woodpeckers.

4) Unread books by and about Thoreau, and a stack of half-read Wild Earth.

5) Unread books including more by some of my favorites--Finch, Gruchow, Hay, Quammen--and some by writers I've yet to explore--Eiseley and Krutch. Also, the 50-year-old classic Curious Naturalists by Niko Tinbergen, a couple about the New England landscape, the revised edition of the excellent nature writing reference This Incomparable Land, and a variety of other one-of-a-kinds including the Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature.

Of the more than 1000 books I've sold is there anything I regret? I'm surprised by quite a few of the books I've gotten rid of, but haven't given most of them a second thought since they disappeared.
I've gone back and forth mostly on field guides. Only if I think of my former collection as a whole do I feel a little bad about its loss. Everything's temporary, including us.


Jackijo said...

"Everything's temporary, including us." Very profound, and yet I can't quite help disagreeing. Your books are a prime example of people, like Shakespeare that have lived on past their death. The ideas, the energy of a life. the stories told about people give some permanence to them. I have to believe there is more than just these few short years we have on this earth. I too, spent this summer giving away books, I have too many, taking up too much space. They remind me of dreams and ideas I once had. I was going to learn to draw, and memorize poetry, and paint like Monet. They remind me of the past, classes I took, homeschooling my children, escaping to other worlds. It was hard to let go of unread books because someday I will find the time. But the stack by my bed keeps getting taller. So it was time to let go. Yes, things are temporary, including our bodies, but I believe there is something that lives on permanently.

greentangle said...

I suppose it depends on the life--Shakespeare may have lived on but there are hundreds of thousands (without checking to see what the actual population was at the time) of his contemporaries we've never heard of.

Personally, I find the temporariness of it all rather reassuring. Plants pushing their way through pavement are comforting to me.

Today I went through closets and tore up some of the boxes which had been used to hold books and music when I moved here--took me two trips to carry them out to the dumpster.