In the past, you can judge a person by the type of books they have on their bookshelves or the CDs stacked next to their CD player.
Today, you can’t tell. Bookshelves and CDs are a thing of the past. Reading habits and listening preferences are largely invisible thanks to e-books, Kindle, iPads, Spotify, YouTube and more.
I grew up on paperbooks and CDs and if I’m going to be honest, they are mostly just gathering dust and taking up space. Do I donate, throw or keep?
I’ve done it multiple times – we are talking boxes and boxes – books and CDs that I enjoyed but aren’t exactly worth revisiting at a later date. But I’m now down to my last two bookshelves – my favourites – and they are poised to become the victims of my latest attempt at decluttering.
I have a collection of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez books that are as precious to me as jewellery. Sometimes I’ll pick one up, flick through the pages and randomly read a paragraph or two. Bliss.
But then I look at my schedule these days and think, “Realistically, I really won’t have time to go through those books again. I still have books gifted to me or recommended to me that I haven’t even had the chance to read!”
That’s on top of books that I need to read for work. I have taken a particular shine on all things AI.
So I’m staring at all my bookshelves and CD stacks thinking ‘What should I do? What should I do?’ Do I allow myself a museum of sorts? An alternate universe and time-space continuum based on keeping the physical manifestation of what I’ve read and what I’ve listened to before iTunes?
How can I show off how well-read I am if there’s not a shred of evidence!?!
Facebook profiles and Goodreads listings just don’t have the same effect for me.
What are the pros of keeping them? If I were to look at the next 30 years (assuming I live that long and more), I would probably only look at any one of those books maybe once or twice, if I’m lucky. As for the CDs, I can just about accept that they are on their way out. But not without a tinge of melancholy – because saying goodbye to them is like saying goodbye to a time and place that I enjoyed (So long, R&B hits of the 90s!).
I’d like to think that by ‘cleaning’ my physical hard drive of books and CDs, I will be making way to new learnings, new experiences and new music.
But that just makes me pause and think of the tomes of documents, music files, movie files and images on my phone, PC, ipad and laptop. Who can honestly say that they need more than 2 trillion bytes of memories (the size of an average 2TB hard drive)?
I’m thinking perhaps in my retirement and no one wants to hang out with me anymore, I can rummage through those 2TB of memories, paperbacks and CDs and immerse myself in the past.
Is my future as a 90-year-old so bleak I need to go back to the 90s?
In my mind’s eye, I see an exciting future. People travelling to outerspace, globetrotting is cheap as chips, there’s anti-ageing technology that allow people to stay healthier and younger for longer (yes, please) and … world peace. All those Miss Universe pageants weren’t for nought. The repetitive and subliminal messages worked! 😀
On a serious note, maybe someday I’ll get rid of my books. Maybe someday I’ll get rid of my CDs. But I’m going to give myself some leeway and say, that day is not today. Instead I just dusted off my decade-old copy of “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and opened it randomly to page 348:
One afternoon, they hid her in a closet in the pantry where the rats could have eaten her. One Palm Sunday they went into the bedroom while Fernanda was in church and carried Ursula out by the neck and ankles.
“Poor great-great-grandmother,” Amaranta Ursula said. “She died of old age.”
Ursula was startled. “I’m alive!” she said.
“You can see,” Amaranta Ursula said, suppressing her laughter, “that she’s not even breathing.”
“I’m talking!” Ursula shouted.
“She can’t even talk,” Aurelanio said. “She died like a little cricket.”
Ursula gave in to the evidence.
“My God,” she exclaimed in a low voice. “So this is what it’s like to be dead.”