Time to shed mountain of books that don’t ‘spark joy’

BY RANDALL RIGSBEE, News + Record Staff
Posted 2/22/19

In Wes Anderson’s 2007 movie “The Darjeeling Limited,” three brothers (portrayed by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schartzman) travel across India, hauling with them on their journey an …

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Time to shed mountain of books that don’t ‘spark joy’

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In Wes Anderson’s 2007 movie “The Darjeeling Limited,” three brothers (portrayed by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schartzman) travel across India, hauling with them on their journey an uncomfortable amount of baggage, both literal and figurative.

In a moment of liberating catharsis at the end of the film, the trio of siblings toss the literal baggage — a mountain of cumbersome suitcases — aside as they sprint to catch a moving train.

It doesn’t take an English major or a cineaste to understand the moment is symbolic, and in the act of casting aside the suitcases, they’re freeing themselves of the figurative baggage as well.

Surveying my bookshelves recently, confronted with the tall and deep stacks of books I’ve accumulated over the years, I thought about that film’s final scene. Not that my collection is weighing me down emotionally. I’ve just got a lot of books.

As I’ve accumulate them over the years, they’ve seemed more or less manageable.

But what if I had to move?

The last time I changed addresses was in 2000 and my book collection at that time was a shadow of what it’s become since.

Instead of culling the collection over the years, I’ve adopted the slippery slope countermeasure of building more bookshelves to accommodate the growing mass.

A glance at my stacks reveals the reading interests I’ve had over the years. And therein lies the problem: what I was interested in 10 or 20 years ago isn’t necessarily what I’m interested in now. And what are the odds I’ll be interested in them again 10 or 20 years from now?

And yet, there they sit, taking up valuable sheltered real estate, collecting dust.

In the digital age, electronic reading devices are helping a less baggage-encumbered generation avoid this problem, I think, by keeping collections tamed in a portable, hand-held device instead of occupying shelf after shelf.

I’m determined to begin culling my collection, to slough off the baggage I’ve been under, kind of like those brothers in “The Darjeeling Limited.”

There are ways to do it, like eBay and Craigslist, or simply donating them to folks like the Friends of the Pittsboro Library for its twice-yearly book sales.

In spite of Kindles and Nooks, there are still people like me who prefer to hold a book in their hands, so I know there are people who could use them.

My friend April Morris, who a number of years ago was a reporter for this newspaper, once told me that she routinely thins out her book collection to make room for new ones. While I’ve done a little of that over the years, I’ve tended to go the opposite direction.

But I’m determined to shed the excess weight of all that book baggage, to heed the advice of Marie Kondo, whose popular book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has sparked a movement and a Netflix show illuminating a path towards keeping only those things that “spark joy.”

Will I ever need to re-read Stephen King’s “The Stand,” a paperback copy of which I’ve been hauling about, without much joy, to my various living spaces since 1981? It’s doubtful. It’d be the perfect book — along with many other titles I haven’t even glanced at in years — to donate for another bibliophile to enjoy.

I don’t doubt I’ll have to make a few painful decisions. I may even have a few regrets later. But I’m determined to begin clearing space on all those bookshelves I’ve built, and — this is the most important thing — not replenishing as I go.

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