Bookcases and pie plates

It is one of the more notable examples of synchronicity for my husband and I. It happens this week--February 20 to be exact. Something for him; something for me. They have no connection except that they, to my delight, happen on the same day. February 20, for those who take note of rather random observances is National Cherry Pie Day as well as National Clean Out Your Bookcase Day. Want to take a guess at which one of us would mark which observance?

My husband loves pie. His favorites are sour cream raisin and, drum roll please…cherry. I don't like pie and consequently I don't bake them either. Before you judge me, I will let you know that I have been known to pay rather handsomely for such items at fundraising auctions to satisfy his appetite. Moreover, we have a couple of very kind people in our lives who periodically appear at our door with one of his favorites. I am very grateful when that happens. He is over the moon.

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That leaves National Clean Out Your Bookcase Day on my radar.

While some might find the task rather banal, it's one I enjoy. Do I actually clean much out in the process? Not really, because as I deal with each book I find myself opening it up and rediscovering passages that struck me on first read. I then decide I simply have to re-read it and back it goes on the shelf. This happens time and again, even though I know honestly I won't return to it. There are too many other books I haven't read yet, and new ones being published all the time. Even so, it is hard to think about getting rid of ones I love.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. In theory, we wouldn't need book shelves because we would be downloading all our books. Quick, convenient, and the ability to carry around dozens—or hundreds—of titles on a slim, portable device was a great selling point for e-books. Well, it turns out it wasn't quite the love affair it was predicted to be. While the sales of print books are rising, e-books have plunged. The 2019 annual report indicated that e-books in the U.S. accounted for just 7% of the multi-billion dollars in book sales revenue earned by publishers. I am in the majority of book lovers who appreciate the ease of an e-reader, but believe nothing compares to turning pages and having favorite bookmarks track my progress. It appears that I am joined by a large percentage of millennials who are popularizing print in increasing numbers over the last five years.

Why is this the case? Industry analysts surveyed readers who said physical books are more easily shared, more colorful and attractive, and it sets a better example for their kids.

The point of cleaning out bookcases is to encourage us to pass along titles to others, donate what we can, or simply organize all that we own. Yet I wonder if something else might happen too, and that is taking a look at the number we have yet to read. I know I am guilty. It's hard to pass up a good sale or the chance to grab a volume I've heard great things about. So they get purchased and placed on the teeming shelf along with so many others.

It will also remind me that I have access to not only all of those, but pretty much any other book I could possibly envision. I have freedom to read whatever I want, whenever I want. Whether it's bookstores (independents are on the rise), libraries, or my personal collection, I have access to a limitless supply of ideas, imagination, adventure, storytelling and inspiration through the written word.

Instead of seeing cleaning out bookshelves, tubs or boxes as an onerous task, I need to instead see it as a chance to dig into a treasure trove of riches that so many people simply don't have. It is an unearned privilege simply by virtue of where I live and the opportunities granted to me. Perhaps the best way to show my appreciation for something of such extraordinary value is to cozy up with a good book…and a piece of cherry pie. That's my outlook.

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