Books have been part of my life since I was first able to turn the pages. However, the advent of digitised versions of books both fiction and non-fiction has completely changed my outlook. That and the convenience of using a search engine such as Google instead of laboriously searching for the right book before manually looking up the subject in the book’s index. So do I need my collection of reference books? Of course I will keep my ‘Dictionary of Quotations’ since it was a school prize. But do I seriously need two quotation dictionaries?
Marie Kondo recommends putting items to be sorted into a pile then taking each one to feel it and see if it “sparks joy”. For the task of sorting my books I am adding the requirement that I will, (not might, WILL) at some point, be looking at the book again. Oh yes, another requirement is that the book has a connection with my history – such as school prizes or the two books on Wedgwood given to my Father by his cousin Betty and their Aunt Lizzie Boughey in 1951. Lizzie went blind because of the toxins – lead, I think – in the stuff she used to decorate Wedgwood china. There is her handwriting inside both books – I never met her but I guess she died in the 1950’s.
Two school prizes: mine and my Father’s are embossed with the school name “Wyggeston”. It was only when I read my Father’s genealogy that I realised how many of our family in Leicester were Old Wyggestonians. My Father and his cousin Stanley James Millard went to Wyggeston Boys in the late 1920’s to the 1930’s while Stanley’s sisters Eva and Ann attended the girls’ school. My Mother’s aunts-by-marriage Eunice and Muriel Mens attended the Girls’ School at the start of the 20th Century while my Mother’s three uncles, Charles, Arthur and Norman Eaton, were at the Boys’ School. Why didn’t my Mother go to Wyggeston Girls? Well, I guess because her own mother, Muriel Eaton, had been a pupil at Collegiate Girls’ School so she went there.
My prize was a French dictionary and is falling apart from use. My Father’s prize, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, is in good condition and I realise that when I was about fifteen years old, my Father lent me the book when I was writing an essay on the Great Fire of London. I won a prize for that essay – a book entitled “The New Illustrated Encylcopedia“. My Father’s university prize has a fading signature by the principal, F.L. Attenborough and Attenborough’s three sons also attended the Wyggeston Boys. Then I have two books given to me by friends: my school friends at Wyggeston clubbed together in 1955 to buy me “King Solomon’s Mines “ by Konrad Lorenz when I left to go to Rhodesia, (Zimbabwe), and my Capetown University roommates bought me a book called “A Book of Delights” – Yes: these books definitely “spark joy”!
Oops! I have just discovered another container of books that I had overlooked. A collection of battered and well-thumbed books from my childhood. Do they “spark joy”? Yes and memories too. What am I going to do with them? Well, I should like to give them an honourable cremation. I cannot bear the thought of them discarded and dumped in recycling sacks. More on these books another time.