Shelf Space

An Essay

by Aleksandra Crapanzano
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This was a lovely essay, beautiful and heartfelt.

I'm a born-and-bred Italian who has moved more times than she can count on her two hands, losing many books in the process—sold, or given away, each one carrying a never-kept promise to myself to acquire them again, someday.

Not a week goes by that I don't miss one of those books; that I don't wish I still had it on my shelves; that I don't feel I need its treasure trove of information, despite all the googling and wikipedia-ing I can do on my computer.

Some people I know, who may be readers but not book lovers, urge me to "read and recycle." I can see the ecological and economical premise at the heart of this, but it's also so cold-hearted: would I recycle my husband, or a friend, or my cats, once I've "read" them—once I think I know them well enough?

Each book is a hushed, intimate conversation with its reader; a world whose borders are open wide to those who venture into it. I don't want to lose any of those worlds after visiting them; I want to be able to return to them over and over again. It's the difference between a journey, and a mere trip. And, as Aleksandra says in her essay, it's the best kind of travel—the kind you can do in your mind, in your own time, without the stress and expense of moving.

I read this early on the first of May in Paris. The narrow street is quiet under my window and I'd like a second cup of coffee. Not here though. Aleksandra's essay makes me want to be out in the world. Perhaps I'll find a bookstore that sells old cookbooks and savor the second coffee all the more.

Alexsandra's essay lent legitimacy to the feelings of remorse I experience after hauling a cart full of books to the "book man" on 96th & Broadway. I wonder what the next stage in my cultural decline will be. Getting rid of the piano, perhaps?