I am in the midst of a book purge, inspired by Marie Kondo. She’s the Japanese organizing guru, the best-selling author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” She’s got me piling my books on the floor in towering stacks that rival the tilt of that famous leaning tower in Pisa, Italy. Her KonMarie Method of sorting, discarding, storing and organizing has me, along with millions of others, holding each book in my hand and asking, “Does this spark joy?”
That, for her, is the only reason to keep a book, let alone any other possession, other than holding on to it for its usefulness. (I don’t consider my vacuum cleaner a joy-sparker, but a lint-free carpet, with fresh brush tracks in its nap, is.)
In sorting books, Kondo is unsparingly practical in her approach. If they’re just sitting there, unread, untouched, unnoticed, get rid of them.
“Books are essentially paper,” she writes. “Their true purpose is to be read, to convey the information to their readers. It’s the information they contain that has meaning. There is no meaning in their just being on your shelves.”
Books I’ve already read have served their purpose and should be discarded, she said. Books that I’ve started and haven’t finished, or books I’ve bought that sit, accumulating dust, on the shelf, are unlikely to ever be read. Let them go, she advises.
“If you haven’t read it by now, the book’s purpose was to teach you that you didn’t need it,” she says. “It will be far better for you to read the book that really grabs you right now than one that you left to gather dust for years.”
Following KonMarie’s advice, I’ve given away several dozen books. But the “spark joy” question has had another effect. It’s re-invigorated my love of reading, and my love of reading books, real books; of engaging with words and images printed on sheets of paper, bound together into a handheld object that doesn’t glow or require an electrical charge.
It came as I assembled my personal Hall of Fame: books that I consider taboo to discard.
They include J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.” My mom gave it to me for my 12th birthday. It had swear words in it.
“I think you’re mature enough to handle this,” Mom explained.
Holding that book, I felt the flush of awkward pride and responsibility that her statement awakened in me.
There, on my new Hall of Fame shelf, is “Coming into the Country” by John McPhee, a book about Alaska. I remember not being able to put it down. I was in my mid-20s and working as a secretary at a law firm in Midtown Manhattan. I read the book at work, hiding it under the desk on my lap.
Annie Dillard’s “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” made me want to be a writer. I read it for a college lit class and got an A on the paper I wrote about it.
“Print books are physical reminders of your intellectual journeys,” opined The National Book Review. “The food and wine-stained ‘Lonely Planet Greece’ brings back that trip through the Greek Isles. A Kindle is just a Kindle.”
But the Hall of Fame is a lofty place for a reason. Very few books belong there. I’m discarding far more books than I’m keeping. I have faith, though, that they’ll find their way to someone else’s Hall of Fame. That’s because we’re still reading books, real books.
E-book sales declined for the first time in 2015, according to the American Association of Publishers, dropping 14 percent from the previous year’s sales. Kindle, Nook and other e-reader ownership has stalled and are increasingly being retired.
At the Bluffton Public Library, which will hold its annual used book sale Sept. 21 through 24, director Jessica Hermiller said book donations are up, but so are book sales. E-book circulation is up, but so is paper circulation.
“I think people are reading more, and I’m just happy about it,” she said.
The book she will never give away? It’s “The Phantom of the Opera” by Gaston Leroux.
“I read that book when I was 12 and I’ve reread it once a year,” she said. “It’s deep and dark and I just loved it.”
It sparks joy. It belongs on her Hall of Fame shelf. Those that don’t should go.
In the process of discarding dozens of books that no longer light my pilot light, I’ve rediscovered my love of reading and my love of books. It seems weird, but it’s true. It’s reawakened the avid reader in me. I can’t wait to buy more.
What books are in your Hall of Fame? Let me know on The Lima News’ Facebook page.
Reach Amy Eddings at 567-242-0379 or on Twitter, @lima_eddings.