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Writing

Great Book Sort #1

File box full of books.

This year I donated roughly 700 books to the public library used book sale and to Goodwill. Goodwill is less picky about what they will accept, so they received the majority of them. Many of my donations still had the Goodwill price tag from when I bought them. Library downsizing has only just begun.

All but The Moviegoer of my collection of Walker Percy novels went into boxes and out the door. I felt a bit sad about that, but as Vonnegut said, “So, it goes.” I had to decide about my collections by author. Other authors, that I worked equally hard to collect, went into bankers boxes with the names and date packed on the outside. Who knows if one will get into the boxes again, yet they are available and take up no precious shelf space. A few — Bellow, Didion, Irving, Morrell, Faulkner, and William Carlos Williams got their own special shelf space. It wouldn’t be my library without those authors.

I wrote previously about poetry and that decision seems solid. The shelves are easily accessible so when I want to read poetry I can get at the stacks.

Cookbooks are impossible. Half of what I gave away was cookbooks. I can’t seem to part with many more. Yet I must. Truth is, I hardly use cookbooks any more. Having learned how to cook, they serve as cultural artifacts related to places and people with which I have some connection. Reference material for the church where I was baptized, or the American Studies department where I got my degree. In seventy years of living, we generate a lot of connections. A cookbook has usually been involved. They also serve as examples of how to prepare a particular dish or ingredient. Keeping many of them takes up space that could be devoted to other topics. This sorting is far from over.

Hundreds of books about Iowa history and by Iowa authors needs reduction to a shelf of about a dozen to hand off to our child when they are ready. I also wrote about this. More of those got boxed up, leaving the first tier to be read and re-considered on the shelf.

The space for books about U.S. presidents is settled at eye level on two long shelves. The ones by or about presidents in my lifetime is sorted. I had two copies of Eisenhower’s White House memoirs and one is on the bench waiting to be packed up for Goodwill. I have a blank space for the second volume of Obama’s presidential memoir. No space was left for a Trump memoir, I mean, you got to be kidding me.

My African-American studies section has grown, and I need a space for American Indian books. I can’t bear to part with all the ancient writings, although the chances of reading some of them are slight. I may get into Plutarch’s Lives, or I may not. Keeping them for now.

Art books take up too much space. Having so many is a function of my interest in certain artists like Picasso, Joan Mir√≥, Georgia O’Keeffe, Warhol, Hopper, and the like. Some I bought at the artist’s retrospective, and some I picked up at used book sales. Until I get to the point of running out of space, most of them will stay right where they now are.

A byproduct of sorting is finding more books to read. The to-read shelves are packed to overflowing. I’ve also found some lost friends, like George McGovern’s autobiography, Grassroots, and Joe Biden’s Promises to Keep. I put Biden’s memoir into a box, thinking he would never be president. Now it’s up in the presidential lineup.

The great book sort is proving to be beneficial. I have a better understanding of what I have, and organized them into projects for future writing. For now, there are some empty shelves. There won’t be for long.