By Mike Ruffin
I own a lot of books. Some people would say I own too many books. Since I don’t think that’s possible, I don’t know what they’re talking about. I say this despite my awareness that I will continue acquiring books even though I can’t read all the books I currently own if I live thirty more years and read five days a week for eight hours a day.
Some people would say that I don’t need any more books. I don’t know what they’re talking about either.
I trace my love of books to four sources. My early teachers at Gordon Grammar School comprised the first source. The second source was the Carnegie Library in Barnesville. The volumes in that blessed facility opened up vast worlds to me. (I still use the public library. When I hear about a novel that I want to read, I request it through my local branch. Inter-library loan makes the holdings of the entire Georgia library system available. I’d own a lot more books if not for this great service.)
The third source was the Happy Hollisters book club. My mother signed me up for it, and I looked forward to the postal service’s delivering each new story about the mystery-solving family of five children, the oldest of whom was only twelve years old. (I still have those books. I hope our grandchildren will enjoy them as much as I did.) The fourth source was the World Book Encyclopedia. I was amazed at the wealth of knowledge those volumes made available to me.
All of those sources conspired to hook me on reading. I’ve never gotten over it.
I’m thinking about my books because my retirement has necessitated my cleaning out my office, which in turn has necessitated my transporting all the books I had in my office from work to home. I had four large bookcases crammed full of books. Those books are now on various bookcases and in a closet in our house. On top of that, I had about forty boxes of books that my employer graciously allowed me to store in a vacant room in our office building. Those books are now in our garage. I have to figure out what to do with them.
Pray for me.
All of the books that I have taken home have now been added to the vast number that already took up much space in our house.
It’s hard for me to part with books. There are several reasons for that. First, I have a sentimental attachment to many of them. Some of them came to me via my beloved, departed, and lamented mentor. I like to keep them around because they remind me of him. Others of them remind me of particular periods in my life when I made progress in significant ways. Second, you never know when one of my books is going to contain just the nugget of information I find myself in need of as I write a story, essay, or poem. If I’m lucky, I’ll even be able to locate the book I need. Third, my books can contribute to the program of lifelong learning that I long ago committed myself to pursuing. I acquired many of the books I have because their subject matter intrigued me, but I didn’t make time to read them. I hope I will now. Doing so is part of my retirement plan.
My books remind me of my past and inspire me for my future. They are a significant part of my identity. They contribute to my reason for being. They aren’t the most important things in my life—faith and family hold that distinction—but they are nonetheless important.
Books may not do for you what they do for me—but something probably does. What brings fulfillment, joy, and pleasure to your life? What expands your spirit and broadens your perspective? What puts you in a better position to make a positive contribution to the world?
Whatever it is, hold on to it. Nurture it. Let it keep forming you into who you are.
And always, in every moment, be the best version of who you are.