Keeping Books: The Importance of a Home Library

Creating Our Home Library

Merging two apartments is not easy. When Brett and I moved in together, we had double everything, including double home library collections. Double DVD players, toasters, mattresses, and utensils don’t just take care of themselves. Combining two single apartments together really highlights just how much stuff we have collected over the years.

We went through almost all of our duplicates to decide what to keep. Even the mattresses. For most things, we could pick one version or the other. Some duplicates were stored away in under-bed boxes or the small storage unit we ultimately leased.

Books, though, were a difficult category for me to whittle down.

Christine Csencsitz's library, featuring a variety of genres.

Why Keeping Books Matters to Me

It would be easy to say that my book collection is the product of my English lit major, but my mini home library started before that. Throughout elementary, middle, and high school, I always carried a book around with me. I’d get a few pages in here and there throughout the days.

I fell out of that habit when I got my first iPad as a freshman in college. I started reading iBooks, instead of paper books. This was so for a few reasons: first I was already hauling textbooks around campus, and, second, I could carry multiple books with me at a time.

In the past few months, I’ve turned away from iBooks and back towards paper books. Mostly, this was because I wanted to reduce the strain on my eyes that staring at a screen seems to cause. Secondarily, I wanted to save money on discretionary purchases that I didn’t really need, so I figured I should turn to the physical books in my possession, whether I had already read them or not.

Sara Tasker's Hashtag Authentic and Rebecca Traister's Good & Mad.

However, since I started reading actual books once more, I’ve realized how much I miss the experience of it. I find that it is easier to get engrossed in a book when you can hold it, physically, in your hands — and when it doesn’t turn sideways if I forget to lock the screen position on the iPad.

Why Keep a Home Library?

I have an abundance of books. If I had to count, I’d estimate I moved somewhere around 200 books with me from my law school apartment to our current place. Before the move, I sold a bunch that I knew I didn’t want or somehow accumulated duplicates of on Amazon, but I was still left with a few big boxes.

Many books stayed with me because I haven’t read them yet, a small library at home of new adventures and stories. Plain and simple, I bought them, inherited them, or were given them and I have yet to crack them open. Some of these have sat with me for years, since I’ve been reading on my iPad mostly. It’s not a commentary on my lack of interest, just in my limited attention span and focus.

Christine Csencsitz's library, featuring a variety of genres, including literary theory volumes.

Other books, I more or less know I won’t re-read — at least, not in their entirety — but cling to regardless. These are the political science and literary theory volumes I stumbled through. I keep them as trophies of some more-or-less successes, mementos of instances where I decided that a course of study was or was not for me.

Books I receive as gifts almost always stay front and center on my bookshelves. These are the books that people in my life thought, “hey, Christine may like this” or considered what I might get out of them. Regardless of whether these books resonated with me, I tend to keep them, less for the story within them and more for the sentiments they evoke in me.

Christine Csencsitz's library, featuring a variety of genres.

In Defense of Paper Books

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t keep books around for their appearances. Some books are just flat out pretty. I like to look at the books I own and consider for a moment that, yes, I have read most of these — that these ideas have become my own or shaped my worldview. I’ve devoted so much time to them, now they serve me as bookmarks and reminders.

Christine Csencsitz's library, featuring a variety of genres, including the Odyssey, Pride & Prejudice, and The Song of the Lark.

As for appearances, I have two copies of The Odyssey, for example. One version is the one I read in undergrad, with all my notes and annotations; the other is the version I read in high school, which decidedly lacks any insights I may or may not have had. The undergrad version is pretty bland looking, and pretty beat up from being toted all around campus. The high school version, on the other hand, is rather lovely — a goldenrod, embossed volume with red foil and a sense of importance.

These are conversation pieces, or even potential coffee table books, even if they only entice some mental gymnastics in my own mind. Someday, I may get rid of one of these volumes. Until then, I’ll keep moving them around with me, thinking back to how different those two experiences were for me.

Resources to Help Build Your Personal Home Library