The reluctant minimalist...

I used to read voraciously. In fact, I kept an annual list of all of the books I'd finish, and most years I'd average more than a book a week. Most of the stuff I read as a kid was pulp-fantasy, but during grad-school I switched to reading a lot of science; both technical monographs as well as general audience stuff. Eventually, I accumulated a prodigious library, which I've managed to cart around North America at substantial personal expense.

A few years ago, realizing that moving more books into my tiny American apartments just wasn't practical, I went the way of the Kindle [1]. Thus while not growing physically, my collection of tomes has been patiently sitting in the closet for the day when we move into a larger place, thereby enabling me to construct the library of my dreams. 

However, as with all aspects of life, the baby changes everything. It's amazing how much space an 8 lb human can occupy. We're quickly landing upon the mantra of big-box department stores: shelf space is a scarce resource and therefore at a premium. It's past time to cut down on collecting crap that I'm not using.

I wonder if anyone at the donation place will actually want to read D'Arcy Thompson's, On Growth and Form? 

I wonder if anyone at the donation place will actually want to read D'Arcy Thompson's, On Growth and Form

With a heavy heart, I have begun purging my book collection of as much as I can bear, which is much more than it used to be. Over the years, I've become quite convinced that I'm carrying a little bit of the 'hoarder phenotype'. For example, I used to find myself worrying about what I'd do if a particular book went out of print. Obviously, the correct answer is, 'Who cares? If I haven't revisited it yet, it's probably not a big deal'.

I've also begun to think about that strange sense of pride that comes from displaying one's collection(s). Do we really expect people to be impressed by the number of movies, albums, videogames, etc. that we have on our shelves? In this era of Netflix and digital music, it seems even more odd to be proud of one's commitment to buying every single superhero movie or whatnot.

So, it's an uphill battle, fighting against this crippling desire to shove stuff onto my shelves, especially now that I've got more disposable income. Let's begin with baby-steps - rather a propos, no? I'll work on trimming down my junk and, whenever possible, converting everything to digital. At the same time, we'll agree that I can keep one useless physical collection going strong. I could never part with my videogames, of course...

[1] Super pro-tip: If you're going to have a baby, make sure you get an ebook reader (preferably with a backlight). You will rarely have more than one hand free, and at ~2 a.m. reading is a good way to pass the time as the baby falls asleep.