Stephen Baker

The Boost
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Rethinking books

October 3, 2010General


We're new empty-nesters. I think it's affecting how we think.

Yesterday I was trying to remove some of the clutter from the trunk of the car, and I pulled out a golf driver with a sawed-off shaft, the grip fashioned with adhesive tape. This was something I made for our youngest son, now a freshman in college, when he was in fifth grade. And it had been hanging around in our trunk ever since.

This got me to thinking about all the stuff that just hangs around in our lives through inertia (with a dose of sentimentality and wishful thinking thrown in). And that got me to thinking about books. Our house is bursting with them. And if we were living on the Kansas prairie 140 years ago, we'd want to keep every single one. Winters were long out there. And you never knew when you might want to read War and Peace or Elmore Leonard's Pagan Babies again.

Consider this: BusinessWeek actually paid for many of these books to move from El Paso to Mexico to Pittsburgh to Paris and back to New Jersey, and many of them completed that entire odyssey without being opened, much less read. So yesterday we filled up eight supermarket bags with books and are getting rid of them. We put some of the most tempting out on the front yard. People are passing them with their dogs. They browse. I watch them through the window, hoping they keep their dogs from putting their chemical stamp on the works. The pile isn't shrinking as fast as I'd like. I think a lot of people are rethinking books. Tomorrow I'll go back to writing mine.

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