A couple of years back, a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up became quite a sensation amongst people with too much stuff, which is most of us. Author Marie Kondo wrote that in order to declutter your life, you have to keep only the stuff you love.
This sounded pretty simple to me; I don't love inanimate objects. I wouldn't say that I 'love' any piece of clothing I own. I have dozens of CDs and DVDs that at some point I really enjoyed, but I can't think of too many that I 'love' to the point I wouldn't part with it. I'm confident that, if I had to, I could clear out most of my possessions without too much angst, particularly if I could just replace it with something better.
There is an exception, however. Books.
In the pre-Internet, pre-500 channel universe, a book was a great way for a bored, nerdish child to while away the hours. Even today, with a world of distractions literally at my fingertips, I always have a book at my bedside, and a lengthy 'on hold' que at the library. I am, however, selective about what books I actually purchase. I tend to buy only books with either high re-readability, or books that look really good on the bookshelf. Yes, I'm that superficial.
But I still have hundreds of books, and some I can't imagine parting with. Some I have pointlessly sentimental attachments to, others I cling to in the hope that they might have some value at some point. I know in my heart that their value is actually much less than what I paid for them, but still.
It's quite revealing to look at your bookshelf. They are truly windows into your past, revealing what was important to you at various times of your life.
I have multiple books on humour, from Dave Barry collections (remember him?) to a book called Good Buy Canada from 1975, based on a forgotten CBC radio comedy called Inside from the Outside. (The book is my go-to source for jokes about Robert Stanfield, in the event I ever need a joke about Robert Stanfield.) I have the collected works of Woody Allen to the collected scripts of Monty Python. (I own a book called The Brand New Monty Python Papperbok from 1973. Haven't read it since 1973, but part with it? Not even if I was tortured with the comfy cushions.)
The Canada-Russia hockey series of 1972 was the most traumatic month of my teenage life, and that is reflected on my bookshelf. I have four books on the series — Hockey Night in Moscow, Death of a Legend, and Hockey Showdown, all from 1972-73, plus the 40th anniversary book. I also have what may be the most extensive collection in the world of books on the Canadian Football League —six – including a ratty paperback from 1968 called 100 Years of Canadian Football, and a photo book called For Love, Money and Future Considerations by Mel Profit from 1972. These were relics from a time when the CFL was deemed worthwhile enough to interest book publishers.
There are individual books that I cherish. Perhaps the funniest book I have ever read is The Lonely Guy's Book of Life, by Bruce Jay Friedman, from 1978. (I could relate, I guess.) I just recently re-read The Secret Diaries of Adrian Mole, age 13, a classic piece of Brit humour from 1982. And there's A Pictorial History of Horror Movies, which I got for Christmas 1973 (I know that because I wrote 'Christmas 1973' on the first page), which fueled my obsession with the classic Universal monster movies. Like I said, a nerdy kid.
But the largest part of my book collection hardly qualifies as books, certainly not literature. I have well over 100 old, smelly, moldering 'pocket books' of comic strip compilations, including about 50 collections of Peanuts comics, inarguably the greatest comic strip in history. The oldest is dated 1967, and cost me 40 cents. (They eventually went up to 50 cents, which I could handle, but when they made the jump to 75 cents, I nearly collapsed.) I also have dozens of paperback collections from other comic strips like B.C and The Wizard of Id, short-lived strips called Tumbleweeds and Eek and Meek, and a lot of the truly reprehensible British strip called Andy Capp, featuring a drunken, unemployed wife beater.
I can't part with them, so they just gather dust or mold. I think I'll assume the fallback strategy of most semi-seniors – let your kids worry about it after you've left the scene.
But I think I might just throw out those Andy Capp books right now.