Welcome to Monday Musings, a series where I review books that I read pre-end of 2017, when I started writing wrap-ups, talk about characters or topics that aren’t as relevant, or sometimes a surprise non-bookish thing.
Alright, look, I recognize I’ve been pretty terrible at posting every week for Monday Musings, but as it’s not usually book reviews or short stories that I’m challenging myself to write every week, I’m fine with it. You’re fine with it. We’ll all survive. But will I survive getting rid of some of my favorite middle grade books? I really don’t know.
The smart thing to do before I got rid of about 45 books from my shelves would have been to take a picture of all of them so I could go through each of them individually, but I like kicking myself in the head rather than being smart, so here we are!
Okay, so confession, this picture is circa April 2018, BUT it’s still a pretty good representation of the pickle I constantly find myself in. After I moved back home from my apartment in Medford last year, all of my books got jumbled together, and to just save myself a headache, I decided to organize everything by author’s last name. Since then, I’ve reorganized into genres (and some subgenres because why not) and then by author’s last name. These stacks are also before I hit the 600 owned books mark (I’M NOT ASHAMED DON’T @ ME), so there’s a little less here than is actually realistic.
To really understand the problem I’m always having, you’d have to step inside my room and see how small it was, but alas, that’s not going to happen, so let me paint a picture for you. I can comfortably fit a full size mattress, a dresser, a cat tower, four Ikea Billy bookshelves, and nothing else. I am not exaggerating. At the moment, you can’t even get to the other side of my room without climbing over my bed. You can’t even see the bottom shelves of my bookshelves, which is fine, it’s whatever, someday I’ll have a library in my house.
The problem is, 600 books takes up nearly four full bookcases. I also use the first two shelves as my current TBR, anything that I’ve acquired in the last year that I need to read. So this leaves me with a grand total of one and a half shelves of space. That’s mildly concerning.
This picture is hilarious. So, it’s been a year since this picture was taken, and not only have the shelves been reorganized, but the sheer amount of room for books just makes me want to fall over. Have I really bought or been gifted that many books??? (There’s also a truly massive pothos plant wedged into the corner now, too.)
Anyway, at the moment, my two TBR shelves are full. Literally no room for anything else. The April books I didn’t get to read are stacked next to my bed because I don’t have any room for them on my shelves. And it was starting to look like I only had one shelf of space left, which is scary because my friend, Erin, whom I book shop with, is coming to visit in a few weeks, and uh, yeah, I’m freaking out.
So I did a big unhaul this weekend! I got rid of some books I hate (Witch, UGH), I went through all of my unread books (not including the TBR shelves) and made myself decide if I was actually going to read them (sorry, JK, but I’m honestly never going to read the Galbraith mysteries), and then took a look at the books I read in middle and high school and quickly had to take a seat.
Did anyone else obsessively buy and read literally anything Ellen Hopkins released? Because I own 11 of her books, and I’ve read almost all of them. (I didn’t get rid of these.)
Also, time traveling back to Mary circa seventh grade and the true beginning of my fantasy fascination in that I own 16 of the DragonLance novels. It’s a little scary. (I also didn’t get rid of these.)
But what about one of my all-time favorites, ttyl? Ffs, I can bring myself right back to reading this series for the first time. I was IN LOVE with it. I bet if I read it now, I’d probably just roll over into a grave and die, but I remember just cherishing the heck out of it. I mean, this was the era of AIM, guys, when having x’s in your username was cool and updating your AIM bio with a different lyric every day was the thing to do. This was when Myspace ruled the web and Livejournal was barely a thing and I parted my hair practically at my ear just so I could side swoop my “bangs” as dramatically as possible. An entire book purely of AIM text? Yeah, I was in.
But am I still in? Nah, not really. It was hard this weekend. There were some books (Everything on a Waffle) that I just could not part with. There were some books, like ttyl, that evoked such a clear emotion in me (Surviving the Applewhites) that nothing in the world could convince me to get rid of. There were some that created the reader I am today (Pure Dead Magic), and some that I’m still proud to own (I don’t even know how many books are actually in the DragonLance universe). But as I was holding ttyl in my hands, I turned to my sister and asked, “Do I still need this?” And she just shook her head.
“Even if you wanted to gift it to your niece or nephew someday, they wouldn’t connect with it like you did.”
She’s not wrong. ttyl existed in a very specific time for me, and in a very specific time in the Internet and early 2000 culture. That time doesn’t exist anymore, and so, I got rid of it. I’m never going to reread it, and so I don’t have room to keep it. But damn if it wasn’t hard to get rid of it.
I remember Scholastic book sales as some of the fondest and most exciting days in my elementary school career. I remember handling my dad’s 50th anniversary editions of Lord of the Rings in middle school with the utmost care. I remember feeling like By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead understood me better than anything else did when I was thirteen. I remember thinking that if I had nothing else in the world but Ellen Hopkins to turn to then I was going to be okay.
Some of the books I read in middle school, I’ll never get rid of. I can’t. Some of them saved my life. Some of them still are. But, it’s finally time to move on from some of them, and though it was hard, it’s also feels a little relieving now, looking back on it. I thought I’d feel like I was boxing away thirteen-year-old Mary and telling her she didn’t matter anymore, but I don’t. I feel like maybe I’m moving on from her? She still exists. The girl who read and loved and was saved by Go Ask Alice is a different version of the woman I am now, but she’s still in there. And though I didn’t get rid of that book, I no longer need it. It’s simply a reminder that I’m stronger than the person I was when I did need it, and I’ve come a long way since then.
So yes, the unhauling was both successful and unsuccessful. I did get rid of things like ttyl and a whole slew of other books I can’t remember now. But I also didn’t get rid of things that I’ll probably unnecessarily cling to for the rest of my life. Going through all of my books was a good exercise, and it stirred up a lot of old memories and feelings that I was able to objectively look at now.
I managed to get rid of about 45 books this weekend. I reorganized so all of my Ellen Hopkins and DragonLance books are on top of my shelves instead of taking up room inside of them. I now have a full three shelves of space free. My TBR shelf is still full, but that’s my own damn fault. I just have to read more. (MORE???) I said goodbye to some books this weekend that I was happy to see go, some books that I was sad to see leave, and some that it was definitely time to let go of, and I’m feeling pretty good about all of them.
What about you? Do you have any super old middle school books that you’re still hanging onto? Let me know in the comments below!