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Thursday, 1 October 2009

Throw Your Books Away


"I houseclean my books every Spring and throw out those I'm never going to read again like I throw out clothes I'm never going to wear again. It shocks everybody. My friends are peculiar about books. They read all the bestsellers, they get through them as fast as possible, I think they skip a lot. And they NEVER read anything a second time so they don't remember a word of it a year later. But they are profoundly shocked to see me drop a book in the wastebasket or give it away. They way they look at it, you buy a book, you read it, you put it on a shelf, you never open it again for the rest of your life but YOU DON'T THROW IT OUT!  NOT IF IT HAS A HARD COVER ON IT! Why not?  I personally can't think of anything less sancrosanct than a bad book or even a mediocre book."

Helene Hanff, letter to Frank Doel, 1952.

I knew it! I knew that that at some moment in history there must exist a person who held the same philosophy on books as I do. Give them away. Put them in the recycling box. Sell them on Ebay. But don't stockpile them because I promise you there is no badge of honour for prolific reading, no judge or jury going to come knocking to see whether you have endured the latest "must read". Nothing. Just words that have mattered to you lining your veins. Sentences stored in your sub-conscience. And knowledge. Knowledge absorbed until it beomes a part of who we are. If you loved it, it is in you. If you didn't you don't have to keep dusting it.
So I am declaring a rubbish book amnesty. Go chuck 'em. Now.

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