I used to have thousands of books on bookshelves which dominated my house. Wall to wall, floor to ceiling, the evidence of how well read I really was, was there for all to see. And be impressed by. Cos let’s be honest, part of why we hoard books, books we will never read again, is so that others will see what very clever well-read people we are. Or that’s what I think anyway.

One sunny day, watching dust motes in the sunlight after my maid had dusted my bookshelves I suddenly realised that the evidence of my smartness/well readness/interestingness as a human being/ability to make up words lay not in the pages and pages lining my walls, but in my interaction with humans.
Also, I mused, all of these books are being kept here so I can be seen as one who reads rather than being sent out into the world so that others too can enjoy them.

And suddenly not only did I not need the literary wall paper, but suddenly I had a desire to free myself of their weight and what had been for me, pretension. What I did not expect was the great joy I had when sorting through them and distribution them to other readers. I loved giving some of my most enjoyed books to others knowing that the wonderful experience of that book was in their future. I felt jealous of people about to experience my beloved stories. But also so glad for them and for the book, for its freedom to be out of my living room and back in the wild, back being read and loved rather than observed and ignored.

I set my books free, all 1 500 of them, and suddenly my house and world was open for new things. And not a single person suddenly thought I was a dullard because my walls were covered in art and other decorations.

I still have some books, of course I do. I have a waiting-to-be read pile that is as large as many people’s entire book collection, I have books I loved that I am waiting for my nephews to get old enough to hand on, and I have some beautiful non-fiction books I keep because they are works of art all on their own. And of course I have a slew of cookery books.

But I no longer keep books simply to keep them. I have no need to look like a book shop – the book shop is in my head.

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