Friday, April 3, 2009

The Story of My Life

A couple of days ago I finished reading a strange little book called Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman. Anne Fadiman is a bibliophile extraordinaire. And I thought I was a crazy library lady. Not in comparison with Anne. Anyway, the book is interesting, but far too high brow for my taste. In any case, it's not the book as a whole that I want to talk to about, it's one small thing she said in it that struck me.

She describes a bookseller who visits his former history professor's apartment, after the professor's death, to pack up his library in order to sell the books. The bookseller describes getting a real sense for who his professor was by the books that were on his bookshelves. He goes on to say that when the books were brought back to the bookshop and separated by topic, they no longer represented his history professor. At that point the bookseller "realized that books get their value from the way they coexist with the other books a person owns, and that when they lose their context, they lose their meaning."

The truth of this quote really struck me. I have three large bookcases in my house and every now and then I have to weed (technical library term) through the books to make room for new ones. But every time I try, I can't seem to part with any of the books that define the different phases of my life. And now I understand why. Taken together, my books tell the story of my life. From the crumbling copy of Walt Disney's Treasury inscribed "Pamela Christmas '67" in my Dad's handwriting, to the Funk and Wagnall's Encyclopedia set my grandfather bought me volume by volume at the supermarket when I was in high school, to copies of the Greek myths from my college days, through books on baby names and parenting tips and the more recent travel guides on England, France and Portugal, my books define who I am. And looking through my bookshelves reminds me of the girl I used to be, the mom and wife I am today and the woman I am still becoming. My books tell a story. My story.

20 comments:

Lucky Wife/Bookaholic said...

Wow. I never understood my insane attachment to my books. Even though I know I'll never read them again, certian books I just can not let go of. They are the books that impacted my life in some way.
Thank you for sharing that with me.

Pam said...

Hi Bookaholic - Isn't it amazing how books can speak to us?! I, too, have kept books that touched me in some way.

Ms Cupcake said...

Good morning!

Checking in from sits. It's FRIDAY!!!! Yay!!!

Have a great weekend.

Zen Cupcake

Pam said...

Hi Cupcake - Thanks for stopping by!

Tammy Howard said...

What a fabulous truth! Thanks for sharing!

c'est Moi! the tink-n-frog said...

What an interesting way to view ones reading history. I had never thought of it that way. hmmmmm.....thanks for the perspective =)

Pam said...

Hi Tammy - It really is true, isn't it?

Tink - Glad you thought it was interesting. I'm happy to share my perspective with you anytime! ;)

Alex the Girl said...

When I moved into my first house, I quickly filled up an attic with boxes and boxes of books that I just could not bring myself to give away. Seriously, though, nothing smells better than a room full of books.

Pam said...

Alex - I agree. One of the many reasons I work in a library!

Anonymous said...

Pam....I love reading your thoughts. I will never think of my books in the same way again. David says I have an illness....always collecting books and having stacks of books I hope to find the time to read.

It could be worse...right?

Colleen

Pam said...

Colleen! So happy that you read my blog! It's always a good thing to know EXACTLY which book you will be reading next, and the one after that and the one after that... Not knowing what to read... Now, THAT would be worse!

Debbie said...

I hadn't ever thought of it like that. But it is true. My books are unique because of the ones they hang around with. I love this!

Pam said...

Hi Debbie - I love the image of my books "hanging out" with each other. I can only imagine what they say to each other.

Cole said...

Visiting from SITS. I too am a book-a-holic! The staff at Barnes & Noble know my name. Hahaha

Pam said...

Hi Cole - Thanks for visiting. I hope you'll come back.

The Rambler said...

Great thing to share.

And that makes so much sense. Which might explain my packrat mentality.

:)

Brittany said...

I love, love, love that quote.
I totally relate to it. My old books are like pieces of my heart or best friends; I can't get rid of them!

Cute blog!

Thanks for stopping by yesterday. It was good to have you visit my blog! :)

Pam said...

Hi Rambler - If your saving books, it doesn't count as being a pack rat. It's a "life journal". LOL!

Brittany - So glad you visited my blog! I can totally relate to your love of your books. They are like old friends. Well said!

Gamma Sharon said...

Brittany couldn't have said it better for me. I to love that quote.
Thanks for sharing, I may have to get that book and read it.

Pam said...

Hi Sharon! It is a great quote, isn't it? FYI, the book is a little odd, but there were some words of wisdom there, too.

 

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