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Books | Catholic Life


I have loved books for years and accumulated hundreds by the time I was in my mid-teens. When I went to college I started trying to reduce my collection, but I only managed to hold steady a bit above 1,000. Then I started dating Josh. Josh did not have quite as many books as I did, but his collection was rapidly expanding. And, if possible, he was even more attached to his books than I was to mine.

Before we were engaged we had a conversation that went something like this:
Me: May I have your car?
Josh: Ha! Yes.
Me: Hmmm… may I have your new computer?
Josh: Yes.
Me: May I have your books?
If you marry me.
Me: What?! You love your books more than you love me?!!!

Apparently I really wanted Josh’s books, because we got married. Procuring bookshelves was our furniture priority, second only to the mattress to put on the floor for sleeping. Our three bookcases were not enough, even though we also had small built-in bookshelves. So while we stacked books in the fireplace for storage, I worked on convincing Josh to get rid of most of our duplicate books. He mostly agreed, but insisted that we needed to keep two of the three copies of John Paul II’s theology of the body. Considering the fact that Josh is the only person I know who has actually read both English translations I did not fight, but tried even harder to find less sacred books to eliminate.

Despite our pathetic best efforts, we still had far too many books by the time we really needed to simplify. So we sold some more books, and gave others to friends, and to the local adoration chapel, and to the library. We drove to my parents’ house and gave my youngest siblings many books that we thought they could enjoy. And we still ended up with four large boxes of books that could not fit in the car.

Four months later I find myself periodically running to the bookshelf to see whether I kept a certain book. I am happy to have gotten down to a reasonable amount of books, but I am sometimes slightly confused over what I chose to keep (or not). There were many books that I loved, but knew I would not reread for years while a friend might enjoy them soon. There were other books that I valued quite highly… but not more highly than their current resale value. As I often told Josh, we could always buy them again later. And then there is a stack of Latin books that I chose to keep. I have not spent more than an hour working on learning Latin so far this year, but seeing all of the books stacked together made me realize how much I must have wanted to learn it only a few months ago.

So, for the sake of tracking my rapidly changing values through books, here is a record of the books I1 owned on October 15, 2009.

Later I will post about each of the books and why I chose to keep it. But I am really curious as to which books readers can identify by their covers in such a small picture, and any stories/thoughts you may have about them. Extra points if it is anything other than Vatican Council II. 😉

1. This is the story of “my books” according to Rae. Josh might think that some of these books are “his” or that some of what I think are his are really mine. But I am right. And this is my blog. And we are not getting divorced any time soon, so you really do not need to worry about whether Josh insists that all John of the Cross belongs to him.

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15 Responses to “Books”

  1. Sarah 12. Feb, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    I love this post! Eric and I went through a similar talk before we moved in together after the wedding. We had many multiples of (mostly) CS Lewis.

    What do you think of the Johnson She Who Is? I’ve heard good and bad things. I also have the Women in Christ book, but I haven’t really read it yet. It’s more academic than I thought it would be. Not that that’s bad, just made me drag my feet a little.

    I love books. :)

    • Rae 15. Feb, 2010 at 11:20 am #

      I really liked _She Who Is_. I think that most of the reasons to dislike it might be based in Johnson’s other books rather than anything she actually says in this one.

  2. Tiphaine 12. Feb, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    ahah I just spent Tuesday going through books in my former bedroom in my parents place. I want to turn it into a nursery for all the grand kids they are having! 😉 Anyway I went through 5 bookshelves and there is still so much more to empty!!!
    I brought home enough to fill 3 shelves, mostly: religious books, latin-greek books from college, youth litterature (like Roal Dahl!)…
    I learned the hard way that books can be clutter too…
    I gave MANY religious books for the parish yardsell next month, my mom was thrilled that she can bring so much to give away! LOL
    I was thrilled to free up some space. That room was so filled with books that you could not see any wall space! Now you can see 2 corners and there is space for a few toys on the shelves. The emptiness is better for cleaning anyway, and I must say I am happy to get my favorite youth books home for my growing family .. :)

    And btw you’re so right about chocolate croissants, I should just go back to the US, at least I wouldn’t smell them at every street corner!!!

  3. Katherine 12. Feb, 2010 at 4:46 pm #

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

    My husband and I both love books. We have tons of them and many are currently boxed. It is really hard for us to sell any though. He is currently working on his dissertation for his Doctorate in Sacred Theology and he plans to teach in college and/or seminary. We have 3 small children and are going to homeschool. I think children’s books and theology books make up 2/3 to 3/4 of our books, the remaining 1/3-1/4 being literature, fiction, nonfiction, reference. I just wouldn’t know how to get rid of any or know what to get rid of or what to keep. But I can definitely relate to the love of books.

    I haven’t read Love and Responsibility yet but I hope to at some point. My husband and I both took over 3 years of Latin in college. I love it and want to teach it to our kids once they are old enough. My grandmother gave me her copy of The Cloister Walk but I haven’t read it yet. I recently finished Palin’s Going Rogue and am working on Doctorow’s Ragtime. I don’t think I’ve read anything by Edith Stein. What would you recommend I start with?

    God Bless!

    • Rae 15. Feb, 2010 at 11:22 am #

      Unless you are into philosophy I would recommend starting with _The Hidden Life_. It is a short selection of essays and meditations and can be found online here: http://www.karmel.at/ics/edith/stein.html though I tend to prefer reading “real” books rather than online texts.

  4. Katie 12. Feb, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    I love the dialogue at the beginning of this post.

    “I have not spent more than an hour working on learning Latin so far this year, but seeing all of the books stacked together made me realize how much I must have wanted to learn it only a few months ago.”

    I would love to learn Latin. I admire you for starting! :)

  5. Genavee 13. Feb, 2010 at 12:48 am #

    Ooo, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, that’s been on my list of to-read for a while.

    I hear you about the excess books. We have three stuffed shelves, books covering most of our desk, and books stashed in boxes all over the apartment. It would probably be wise to clean things out, but I attach too much meaning to them. Its not just the book itself, its the memory of getting it and reading it. I have so much of myself, my thoughts and feelings tied up in my books.

  6. Christy 13. Feb, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    Wow…. and I thought I was a book hoarder! I just packed up three boxes of books… and that’s not all of them… to be moved into my house. I am definitely someone who re-reads books… I have re-read “Where the Red Fern Grows” at least 20 times… and I have the same copy I got in 5th grade.

    I admire you for getting rid of books…. I can’t do it. Before I move I’m going through all of my old college books and purging… I know I don’t need a lot of them, it’s just hard because “what if someday…” But I’m hoping that if someday hasn’t come yet, it’s not going to.

  7. Missus Wookie 13. Feb, 2010 at 11:35 am #

    We have similar views on books… they all belong to me, except for the ones I don’t want like Wookie’s political science ones :) Over the last couple of years I’ve slowly been sorting through and giving away children’s books that our teenagers no longer want to keep and aren’t good enough to hang on to for the small people who come to visit. Scarily that means that we actually have empty shelves…

    Cashew nut butter cookies – I bought cashew nut butter for Wookie from our food co-op as another family had it and he liked it. He’s not eating fast enough so I’m using it up for cookies, just replacing peanut butter but also adding some crushed cashews as the butter is smooth. However, making nut butters at home is fairly simple if you can’t find any :)

    • Rae 15. Feb, 2010 at 11:23 am #

      Thanks for the cookie tip! I am really going to have to try that someday.

  8. Elizabeth 13. Feb, 2010 at 3:41 pm #

    I may or may not have just eagerly looked through your picture to get your comments on some of these books. How is “Women in Christ”? It’s been on my list of books to buy for a while. Any good? Also, any particular Edith Stein book you would recommend, for someone without a philosophy background who has never read her? That’s also been on my list!

    • Rae 15. Feb, 2010 at 11:26 am #

      I think that you would love Women in Christ, though as Sarah said, you should expect it to be a little dense.

      For Edith Stein I usually recommend that people start with The Hidden Life, but I think that you have to read her Essays on Woman since that is the source of a lot of JPII’s thought on women and new feminism. She obviously thinks like a philosopher, but the essays/talks were not directed at philosophers, so it should not be a problem.

  9. Jordana 13. Feb, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    We’re rather book crazy around here too. In fact, there are few books we have two copies of, because neither my husband nor I will part with “our” copy.

  10. Martianne 14. Feb, 2010 at 10:01 pm #

    This made me smile as my hubby and I have far too many books, too. Right now, I am working on purging the kiddie lit. Next up -and perhaps far more challenging – is our combined adult libraries… Glad to know we are not alone in our love and challenge. 😉

  11. Taryn 20. Feb, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    So many books! We are in serious need of bookshelves now too. I have sold quite a few after I finished school- but we still have quite a few books.

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