Value Without Ownership

In addition to my “as many goals as birthdays tradition,” I’m also starting a new tradition with this birthday. I’m getting rid of as many possessions as I am years old. Yesterday after work, I sold around ten books to two used bookstores down the street and donated the remainders and some old clothes and unused necklaces and bracelets to Goodwill. All in all, I received $13.50 and some store credit for the books, and more importantly, more space in the apartment.

Getting rid of books is hard. I remember my dad once looking for a book he’d gotten rid of, something by Jane Goodall I think, but that seems unlikely. He couldn’t imagine why he’d gotten rid of it, but at the time it must have seemed logical. It was only years later that he looked for it again. I imagine myself a year from now or five years from now, wondering whatever happened to my copy of The House on Mango Street. Then I will lament the day I thought I could give up such a classic.

I think this and then I remember the library. There is no reason that I need to physically possess this books at all times, no reason for them to collect dust in my apartment when they could collect dust on many more shelves amongst their brethren down the street. I don’t need them.

It feels a little frightening and a little powerful to think that. I value books. I love books, which to me has also meant I love to own books. I don’t need to own a book to value it.

There are some books that I will never get rid of, not even if I lived next to the best library in the entire world. I would never get rid of Eugene Debs Speaks. I would never get rid of God of Small Things.  But as I glance over all of the other books I still own, I wonder if one day I’ll be able to let them go too.

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