I have been trying to trim my father’s book collection – a colorful spectrum of books ranging from poetry, history, biography (lots of them) and fiction of every kind!! He was a dedicated reader and the he continued to buy books from his college days in the 1930s till well into the 1970s. Thereafter, in the last decade of his life, he finally fell in line with my mother’s life long lament against the growing number of bookshelves to be dusted and resorted to the libraries in Bangalore – British Council and bangalore Club. Having inherited his love for books, it was understood in the family, that i would be the one who would inherit this treasure house.
After his death in the early 1990’s my mother moved to Chennai and her new flat was designed with shelves to house all the books. Her complaints against his collection when he was alive disappeared and it was a part of him that she treasured – although she did not read at all in English. Since then, it was one of the pleasures of my annual visits to her place to dust the shelves and rearrange the books, sometimes by genres (history, biography, fiction, travel etc), sometimes by the origin of the authors (English, American, European etc) and sometimes by the era (between the wars, post-war, the 60’s etc). Of course, as she grew older, it became increasingly difficult for her to keep the shelves cleaned and her constant refrain became “When are you going to take these away? I am going to give them all away to the kabbadiwala”.
Of course, she was aware that in the meantime my own collection of books was filling many shelves in my house. a At the time, i was living in a large government bungalow and probably could have found place for all those books she wanted me to take away, but for me it was a difficult decision. Those book filled shelves were a part of her house and a warm reminder of my father.
And then i retired and moved to my own small flat and although my daughter (who is also a 3rd generation book lover) designed the interiors with as much shelf space as was possible, there was a limitation. I was fairly possessive about my books – each had my name and the date and place of purchase. But now i realized that the strategy had to change. As i was unpacking and putting them on the shelves, i looked at some of them and i had bought 20-30 years ago and realized that i had never read them a second time and probably never would. So, while i cannot of think of giving away “Rebecca” by Daphne du Murier as i may want to re-read it yet again, there were so many that i would not miss at all. So, i have been trimming my collection and i find that it is not so hard any more.
And of course, the e-book is here!! I have acquired a Kindle. Although i had felt that i would miss the feel of paper while using an e-reader, the comfort of being able to select a larger font size is a wonderful asset, especially for older readers like me. But, the e-catalog cannot replace the atmosphere and the smell of the book shop. And how can one ‘browse’ and not buy? So, while I am still learning all the tricks of using the electronic library and bookstore, i am wondering if the pressure on my bookshelves will actually ease off. I will keep you posted.