But then something funny happened. A few weeks ago, I had an evening to myself so I took Tropic of Cancer from my bookshelf and could not put it down. I found it inspiring. Even the dirty parts.
Anyone who has ever helped me move will tell you that my collection of books is ridiculously large. They were stacked two deep on my bookshelves even before my husband added his collection to mine. But despite the desperate urgings to pare down that I get from friends as they struggle to carry box after box of books to each new walk-up I call home, I can’t get rid of them. They’re a chronicle of my life. I stand in front of my shelf and think, I read that one when I was in China and that one when I was in Rome. That one was a gift from my college roommate and that one made me cry. Love notes fall from the pages of some and the pages of others are filled with quickly scribbled thoughts and underlines. But more important than the sentimental value of these books is what a re-read years later can teach me about myself. People evolve slowly and almost imperceptibly, but when my reaction to a book that I read years ago has changed, it’s a powerful reminder that I have changed. And that’s worth all the box-carrying shoulder strain in the world.
By Emily Olson