Boxed in by Books

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Books: some packed, some not. The blue thing on top of a stack isn’t a box; it’s my book group book. But it could be a box by itself.

I don’t know what I was thinking, but when it was my turn to select a book for my history book group, I picked a book that was two inches thick. Generally people measure their books by page count, and it’s just as daunting there: 657, plus notes.

We were supposed to discuss this book in June, but I’d only made it 70 pages so I suggested we push the date back to July. Plus, I was hosting, and I thought maybe I could host in my new house. Well, one month later I am still on page 70 and I will be hosting in my old house, since it has furniture and running water.

I don’t know how well the reboot of our book group is going. Our first meeting got postponed a month; this one got postponed a month. Lynn wanted to know how many people might be showing up tonight, and we decided it would be between three and six. But this morning one of the reliable attendees sent an e-mail saying he didn’t bother to acquire, let alone read, the book so he won’t be attending.

I’m not sure what was wrong with my selection, other than the length: it’s a discussion of the Romanov dynasty, which ruled Russia 1613-1918. It includes the Greats, Peter and Catherine, and the collapse of the monarchy under Nicholas II . . . it seems appropriately historic, but apparently not of interest to all in our group.

And I probably could have made more of an effort to read further myself, but the author seemed very enamored of reciting all the gory details of torture, while reducing to a footnote an explanation of how the peasants became virtual slaves known as serfs. Plus, life has felt more hectic than usual, and taking time to read feels rather frivolous.

Which is a sad statement on my life, and makes me wonder what I’m doing as I pack up box after box of books to move to my new house.

Lynn this weekend opted for The Purge. She got boxes that are too large and filled them beyond carrying capacity with every book she’s ever owned, all of them bound for donation or recycling. Her approach should make all of you happy, but it’s just making me sad.

I learned my lesson about packing books after the first box, which seemed reasonably-sized to me until I filled and tried to lift it. I think the secret is to go to the liquor store and get a lot of boxes there, but so far finding time to go box hunting has eluded me, so I’ve grabbed the smaller boxes that have made their way into the house. If it feels like I’ve packed a million boxes of books, I probably have, but I’ll be able to lift all but one.

Am I packing a lot of books I’ll never look at? Yes. Are they going to the house anyway? Yes.

I have, I think, five weeks to vacate this house, and if I stop to sort, I will need five years. I dither way too much, and get paralyzed over whether to keep or donate, and if I’m going to donate, who will really want this book? These books, mind you, include books that belonged to my mom and her brother when they were kids. I doubt they’re worth anything, except to me, so who really will want these books? Well, I still want them, even if I’m not likely to ever read them. Or read them again.

Yesterday we had breakfast at Sue’s house, where her daughter Donna, a contemporary of mine, is visiting. And even if she didn’t know she was doing it, Donna offered me great advice. She said that when she moved, she took a lot of things she thought were necessary, but when things didn’t fit in the new space, it was easier to become less attached.

So I’m going to box now and then spend the next five years sorting, and when I don’t have enough room for all my books, then I’ll get tougher about which to keep and which to get rid of. Although it has not escaped my notice that there’s now a lot of shelf space where all of Lynn’s cookbooks used to live.

I have boxed and boxed and boxed, and emptied two bookshelf units and one shelf. This only leaves one shelving unit and a shelf in the toy room, four shelves in the bedroom, two shelving units downstairs and the full-wall bookcase in the front room. People had better start drinking a lot of beer so I can get all the boxes I’m going to need.

It’s Tour season for cycling fans, and I’m splitting time I could be using to read history books between blogging and watching bike racing, so entries could be short and filled with distractions for most of the next month. As opposed to the rest of the time, when I’m sure I never get distracted while blogging.


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