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B Y

J O E L L E

H E R R

Sparking (Bookish) Joy

I

have a little biblio confession. I’ve been thinking about downsizing my personal library. An as-long-as-I-can-remember book lover (slash hoarder) with a toe in middle age (gulp), I’ve purged books from my collection only once before. In early 2001, I sold about a third of my tomes at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, to lighten my load before moving back East. Over the subsequent years, I can’t tell you how many times I scoured my shelves for a title only to remember, with a thumping heart, that it was gone. Since that regretful Powell’s surrender, I’ve accumulated hundreds more books. Freebies from publishers I’ve worked for, plus lots of books I’ve edited, and even more I simply couldn’t leave a bookstore without purchasing. I’ve packed and unpacked and repacked and re-unpacked them for more than a dozen additional moves, my bookfilled boxes always outnumbering all of my non-bookfilled boxes combined. The purging of belongings (and not just books) is actually quite de rigueur these days, inspired by the popularity of — wait for it — a book. I’m talking, of course, about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. First published in 2014, this self-help-y, lifestyle guide advises readers to get rid of possessions that don’t “spark joy.” Basically, you’re supposed to clutch an item close and ask yourself whether it brings you joy. If not, according to Kondo, it needs to go. When I first opened my bookshop in 2016, Kondo’s book had been out and on multiple bestseller lists for nearly two years. I didn’t immediately stock it, but folks started asking for it, so I did carry it — along with the parody The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place

— for a year or so before the phenomenon seemed to have waned. It popped back onto the scene, though, when Netflix released Tidying Up with Marie Kondo earlier this year. In eight episodes, Kondo utterly charmed viewers and reignited the dis-possession craze. After the show started streaming, some headlines caught my attention: “Marie Kondo Is Coming for Your Books,” “Kondo Hates Books,” “[Kondo] Is a Monster.” Yikes. Apparently, Kondo was advising folks to limit personal libraries to 30 books, and no more. Miffed that an author whose books had sold millions of copies was somehow anti-books, I decided not to order more for the shop. I mean, blasphemy, right? In researching for this column, though, I’ve discovered that the heresy-proclaiming headlines were misleading. In fact, Kondo mentioned in an interview that she prefers to keep no more than 30 books, herself. In no way, shape, or form did she ever mandate a limit for others. Book lovers are a fiercely fervent group (bless ’em). I think Kondo might have trouble escaping this biblio-phobe rap, as bum as it may be. But back, if I may, to my conundrum. There are several factors behind my urge to cull my collection. For one, as the years pass, I’m coming to terms with the reality that my time is finite and that there are books on my shelves that I know I will never read. Another reason: my taste has evolved. It may well be time to pass my 20-year-old chick lit novels on to someone else. When — or if — I move forward with a personal library edit, I will take Kondo’s lead and carefully consider each book before deciding its fate. Whether it “sparks joy” likely won’t be a determining factor — I do have an affinity for spooky books, after all — and I’m telling you right now that I will be keeping way more than just 30. →

“A house without books is like a room without windows.” — Horace Mann

September | October 2019 theeastnashvillian.com

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