2018 resolution to worry less about lost books: How did it go?

One writer learned that letting books go – even for a bibliophile who counts them as a treasured possession – can be liberating.

'The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating' is by Elisabeth Tova Bailey.

It’s been a year now since I posted a Chapter & Verse blog post declaring my New Year’s resolution to fret less about books lost from my personal library, especially those borrowed and not returned. My teenage son, Will, had borrowed my cherished copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays and lost it on a bus – something he grieved about since he’s a typically responsible young man.

“In an age when the decline of reading is often lamented, I have a teenager who wants to read Ralph Waldo Emerson,” I told readers last December. “I’d rather have my books embraced and used, regardless of the risk, than simply entombed like the heirloom china that family members revere but don’t enjoy.”

Letting books go – even for a bibliophile who counts them as a treasured possession – can be liberating, I’ve learned these past 12 months as I’ve tried to honor my resolution. Inspired by his reading of Emerson, my son has been working his way through my books by naturalist Kathleen Dean Moore: Wild Comfort, Holdfast, Riverwalking, The Pine Island Paradox. He’s so in love with them that I might never get them back, and that’s OK. It’s been a joy to see him as enthralled as I am by Moore’s magical prose.

Will also recently borrowed "The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating," Elisabeth Tova Bailey’s chronicle of a tiny creature who comforted her through an extended convalescence. With my permission, he loaned it to a friend, and it probably won’t make it back to my living room shelf, either. Some of my other books have circulated this year, though the circle seldom brings them back to me. Slowly, I’m learning that the more you let books go, the easier it is to let them go. Practice helps.

Not that I haven’t thought from time to time about “Would You Mind If I Borrowed This Book?,” Roger Rosenblatt’s funny essay about the perils – and the promise -- of being a book lender. “It is the supreme selfless act, after all,” he says somewhat extravagantly of loaning a book. “Should we not abjure our pettiness, open our libraries, and let our most valued possessions fly from house to house, sharing the wealth?”

I suppose so. Readers are, I have found, an alternately  exhilarated and discouraged lot – cheered by what they find in books, yet disappointed that the community of fellow bookworms isn’t bigger.

One way for lovers of literature to widen the circle of readers is to share their books more freely, far and wide, even if it means never see them again.

Or so I’m trying to remind myself as I renew my New Year’s resolution to let my library roam a bit, assuming that parts of it will find homes somewhere else.     

Danny Heitman, a columnist for The Advocate newspaper in Louisiana, is that author of A Summer of Birds: John James Audubon at Oakley House.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to 2018 resolution to worry less about lost books: How did it go?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today