Last Thursday I had a party I called the Great Book Swap of 2010 and, let me tell you friends, it was fascinating. Namely in that countless people sent me emails or texts, or pulled me into a dark corner of the hallway to confess, that they "had nothing to give away." Now this, dear reader, is unbelievable.
These are literate people. People with books. Books, books, and more books. What I believe they meant was not that they had nothing to give away, but nothing that they COULD give away. And apparently my tack- that we ought part with some of our books before ending up on an episode of Hoarders, was not appreciated.
Sure, I have books I want to keep; books I will use in the classroom, books I plan to reread, or that I wrote embarrassing notes in, or that signify an important literary or personal epiphany. But I also have shit-loads of books that are just there. And I find it hard to believe that others aren't overwhelmed by the little buggers too.
So why is it easier for me to imagine parting with these extraneous books? Is it because many of them were free or gifts, because I buy too many books in the first place, because many were purchased at thrift stores for supremely discounted prices, or is it because my apartment is so cluttered and I am always desperate for space? Why? Who knows.
For others, however, it was not so easy to say goodbye. It was as if folks though that by giving them away they would somehow hurt the books feelings. Now this, my friends, is preposterous. Books do not have feelings. Yes, they evoke feelings in the reader. And books given to you as gifts might remind you of fond feelings for the gift giver. But the book, and, quite frankly, the gift giver, is not going to be wounded if you give away a book that you have read and have no intention of ever reading again.
To be clear, I wasn't suggesting that people hand over their entire library, just one or two of those that might be gathering dust in the top most corner of your shelf. Thankfully some folks were able to find books they were willing to part with and they came out in the cold to get their swap on! After all, the point of a swap is to trade. Tunafish for Oreos, you see.
I ended up swapping five books representing a diversity of genres: White Teeth by Zadie Smith, When I was Five I killed Myself by Howard Buten, and Urban Tribes: A Generation Redefines Friendship, Family, and Commitment by Ethan Watters, and....yikes, for the life of me I can't remember the other two. See, out of sight out of mind! (Perhaps the fact that it turned out to be free Jamesons night at the bar and they kept passing out drinks might be a contributing factor in my selective amnesia...)
And I came home with Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman, The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst, Persuasion by Jane Austen, a pile of books for donation, and an ARC of Will Grayson, Will Grayson co written by David Levithan and John Green, which I stayed up until 6:00 in the morning to finish because it was so awesome!
All in all, a great night with great people. Those of you who were not there were missed. Be forewarned, another Book Swap is in the works. So start combing those shelves for titles you are willing and able to let go of and make some room for the new titles that want in to your life.