I was talking *hypothetically* with my mom the other day as we were driving, and I told her how the worst thing that I could imagine happening to me would be the house burning down with all my books inside it. A house fire is utterly horrifying to me. Even as a kid, I would shove my favorite stuffed animal in the safe when we went on vacation – just in case there was a fire. Now that I have all these books, the concept is even more terrifying.
She laughed, and said that there’s always insurance to cover the cost of replacing the books. I immediately told her she was about to be the subject of a blog post – I told you mom! (She gets my posts by email.)
She responded with another hypothetical, asking what I would choose if a crispy home could be exchanged for a fix up of all our current family issues: my books or resolution with said family members?
I picked my books. Am I a horrible person? I think not.
Here’s the skinny: family members can choose of their own accord whether they want to get their act together, no amount of sacrifice on my end needed. My books are innocent.
How could I replace all the memories associated with those books? My Harry Potter books – three of them the UK versions, purchased when I vacationed there. The sweat stains on the hardback copy of The Deathly Hallows as I gripped it so tightly the edges started to wrinkle. And my copy of The Fellowship of the Ring – I read that for the first time when I was about eight years old. I stayed up in the attic of the house we rented with another family in Hawaii, reading instead of swimming. The spine is bent in eight different places from how many times I’ve read it.
And what about all the dog-eared pages, stains, and markings? Thousands of them! Only two in the book? I must have read it in one or two sittings. A bunch of folds? I’ve either read it a dozen times, or I kept stopping because I couldn’t get into it. What if I’ve spilled something on it? Oh, there’s the tea spot from my midnight reading session while I tried to put myself to sleep. Whoops – I must have missed a bit of chocolate on my fingers after that brownie. My copy of Perks of Being a Wallflower – underlined quotes and post its everywhere to remind myself of the pure magic contained in those pages.
Hopefully I’ve illustrated my point. Books aren’t just books. No amount of insurance money can replace them. Sure, you can get another copy. Perfect. Spine unbroken. Pages unwrinkled. A fresh start. But they don’t have that special something in them. Once you read a book, you put a bit of your soul into it. A book is no longer a book – it’s a horcrux. When you pick it up again, you can feel the thrum of life as you turn the pages. Having a bookshelf burn down would be like having a hundred children die all at once.
I’m not crazy – you know what I’m talking about! Here’s a current-life example: I lent a friend my copy of City of Bones a few weeks ago. She finished it in three days: I still don’t have it back. If I have to, I can always buy a new copy. But then I would feel dirty, like I’m cheating on my original. There’s no replacement for the one I bought. I can tell you the history of that book: where I bought it, what I bought it with, which job provided the money that I spent, how long it took me to read it, where I read it, what music I listened to while reading it – EVERYTHING. I can’t tell you that if I just order a new one off Amazon. It’ll sit there on my shelf, cold and unused and personality-less. Plus, it was the first book I read when I finally returned to consistently reading. I inhaled it and never looked back. It’s a milestone – irreplaceable.
In conclusion, if some horrible turn of events happened and the world just wanted to stick it to me and my house burnt up into little matchsticks, I would probably end up like the old lady in Fahrenheit 451.
Now here are my questions for you: Do you feel like your books are parts of you after reading them? And if you could only save one book off your shelf from a fire, which would it be?