I am slightly possessive about my books. Actually, I am borderline-psycho about them. Okay, fine, I am Kathy Bates in Misery about them. But with good reason, I think. I lent my copy of The Fountainhead to an artist friend in college, and I still remember how unapologetic she was when she returned it with a heavy black ink stain soiling the edges (I’m sure she apologized, but not nearly enough for the gravity of the offense). I lent The History of Love–one of my favorites–to another friend a few years ago and, realizing that I would never see the book again when she hadn’t even started reading it after a few months, had to steal it back from her bookshelf one night while attending a party at her apartment.
So, choosing a book to bring to a book swap was an agonizing task. Did I have my fair share of books on the shelves that I didn’t enjoy reading? Sure. But I didn’t want to bring an obviously bad one I’d gotten for free at a conference in fear that others would judge me for ever owning it in the first place. Then there were those that, while I’d expected them to be good, turned out to be disappointing. What if I had just missed something and, if I re-read them, would discover their brilliance? I know I probably never will go back to them (they might as well be A Confederacy of Dunces), but who’s to say for certain? Factor in the fact that the moment I get rid of something–the “novel” I wrote when I was 8 years old; a love letter from a high school boyfriend; my old job–I instantly feel an inordinate desire to have it back, and you can see why the decision was so difficult.
Plus, there was no guarantee that in giving away a book, I would necessarily come back with one of my own.
After at least a half hour spent in front of my bookshelves–admittedly reading excerpts of books I love that I knew I would never give away–I chose a book I hadn’t enjoyed but that had New York Times Bestseller on it, so at least I didn’t have to be too ashamed to have purchased it for $1 from The Strand. I brought it to the event, placed it on the table, and watched as someone immediately picked it up and kept it. Success.
Also a success? I came away with 4 books of my own to read. And they’re already in used condition, so you can definitely borrow them. But you’d better give them back, and preferably without black ink stains.