Book It: Learning to let go of my favorite reads

My partner and I recently moved to a slightly smaller house in Spokane, which meant a full-scale effort to get rid of a lot of things to save us from moving them.

Losing old shot glasses and concert T-shirts came pretty easy despite their nostalgic value, as did ditching some favorite pieces of furniture and kitchenware. When it came to my bookshelves, though, the idea of downsizing froze me.

It wasn't because I collect rare first editions or have some special set of an author's complete works. My shelves hold an utterly random batch of music biographies, old Doonesbury and Far Side collections, baseball history books and entirely too much Hunter S. Thompson. But I'm the type who enjoys reading favorite books over and over again. Comfort food for an addled brain.

As I've aged, though, I've come to realize I might not have time to read all my favorite books again before I die. Not being maudlin, just realistic. I mean, you'll find few campaign books better than Richard Ben Cramer's What It Takes, but when am I really going to delve back into the 1988 presidential campaign — 1,072 pages worth of the '88 campaign, to be exact? Probably not soon. Some of my books had to go:

  • Bridge To Terabithia was my favorite book as a kid, but I don't have children. Besides, there's a decent movie version now. See ya.
  • I bought Ron Suskind's The Way of the World to help me understand the George W. Bush administration because I thought it was the worst in American history. Suddenly seems dated.
  • I enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye in high school. Don't see making time for that one again.
  • Kerouac's On The Road — hits the road.
  • An unread copy of The TV Writer's Workbook — ah, the path not taken. Probably too late for a career change.
  • Bob Dylan is a genius. A true poet with a wicked sense of humor. When he published a book called Chronicles, Vol. 1 in 2004, I snatched one up. And never read it. I moved once. I moved again. I packed Dylan's book wherever I went. And never read it. It's now been 15 years. Still haven't read it. Sorry, Bob.

Ultimately I got rid of about 50 books. I guess that's progress. But you'll probably have to pry my copies of Thompson's Hell's Angels and Sparky Lyle's The Bronx Zoo from my cold, dead hands. And I did keep What It Takes, because you never know, might have time someday! ♦

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About The Author

Dan Nailen

Dan Nailen is the managing editor of the Inlander, where he oversees coverage of arts and culture. He's previously written and edited for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, Missoula Independent, Salt Lake Magazine, The Oregonian and KUER-FM. He grew up seeing the country in an Air Force family and studied...