I just spent the past week going through books I packed into boxes in Salt Lake City just before I married Thomas D Stout in January 1993. I had just spent 10 years as a graduate student at the University of Utah in nineteenth- and twentieth-century British literature and narrative theory. I had hundreds and hundreds of books–novels, poetry, histories, literary theory.
At first we didn’t have a place for the books so they were packed away in the garage, over the years behind more and more stuff. We just got to most of them this past week, old friends met anew.
So much has changed. When I was collecting those books, I needed to physically find a book in a library or store. And physically keep track of its location if I wanted to see it again. I imagined that I would be teaching at a university and publishing articles and books on literary topics. I prided myself on my book collection, many unusual and hard to find 19th and early 20th century books as well as a broad range of theoretical texts.
Twenty years later, so much about books and reading has changed. I buy most books online. I generally prefer to read and make notes on my kindle. And I love to listen to novels as audiobooks (as well as read them). I can easily find almost all of the books I collected in electronic versions–many of the older ones for free. It’s easier to read, take notes, change the type size if needed. I still have many favorites. But I’ve decided to get my book collection down to a group I can keep on the shelves in my island lair on Whidbey Island–that’s still a not insubstantial number of books. The picture I’ve included shows just my Mormon books.
My life has taken some unexpected turns. I didn’t become a professor of literature. For years I worked as an editor–a small magazine, a small press, and then a large software company. For the past three years I’m back to my own work. But I’m writing now about Joseph Smith using my background in narrative theory, a book analyzing Joseph’s use of Bible stories.
All of this is the context for my return to my old books. Sorting them into several piles, those I will keep for my library shelves in Langley, those worth listing on Amazon, those that I will sell in garage sales or give away. Those I’m saving for my shelves are a subset. So many of the books I already have obtained in electronic form.
It’s been hard to say goodbye. But it also feels good. Still a work in progress but a goal is in sight.