We painted them. We waited for the paint to cure while books were stacked in crazy piles around the perimeter of the dining room.
And then the real work began: I had to choose which books went back on the shelves.
Does that sound easy? Not if you're a bibliophile. Not if you feel a personal attachment to books. Not if you remember where you acquired them and where you read them. Not if your name is written inside. Not if your child's name is written inside. Not if you used many of them in your twenty-some years of homeschooling and have precious memories attached.
It was hard work. (Thankfully, Kati was willing to help me with this task.)
I handled each and every book, making a decision about each one.
Some were easy decisions. No one has ever read that book and no one is likely to read it. We don't need four herb guides. Where in the world did this one come from?
Most, however, were not easy. We had to ask ourselves qualifying questions. Will anyone ever read this again? Is it loved? Is it a good reference book? Does it hold sentimental value? Are there other books on the shelf that fulfill the same purpose (i.e. multiple field guides on trees, different age levels)? Would it be more helpful to someone else? Does this one go in a particular child's "keep for my own children" stash?
We had a gazillion books on Presidents. Another gazillion on the Civil War. Another gazillion on Lewis and Clark. A gazillion poetry books. (There were definite themes in our collections!) So we tried to cull our collections. (Within reason.)
One night, I handed Ron a large stack of history books to see if any of them needed to be returned to the shelf. Later I saw that he had put one book aside. "So you want to keep that one?" I asked.
"No. That's the one I think I can get rid of."
It was also sobering work, as I realized that many books would not be reshelved because we won't be using them again. Bekah, our youngest, will be at high school level this next school year. No one will be reading If You Lived in Colonial Times or Shakespeare For Kids: His Life and Times, 21 Activities. (Say it isn't so!) No one will be poring over Pets in a Jar (truth be told, Bekah did not pick this book up at any age) or Nature Crafts for Kids. It was sobering to make a break with elementary education, knowing that we will not be back.
But then there was another category of books.
As we sorted through the books of American history, I picked up our copy of The Book of Indians by Holling C. Holling. Yes, it is written for children, but I gripped it tightly as I declared to Kati, "You will have to pry this out of my cold, dead hands."
Message understood. She placed it in the stack to be shelved.
There were others that fit this category. The funny thing is...Kati usually knew which books were of the "prying" sort.
And that led me to the realization that these books are the best of the best. These are the ones that we have related to, have read over and over, have been inspired by, have loved. These books are what Charlotte Mason called Living Books, ones that are filled with ideas and literary language and inspiration and noble thoughts.
So I am beginning a new series of posts in which I will share with you some of our best-loved books. There will be no theme other than that. They may be from any subject. They may be fiction or non-fiction. They will be from all reading levels (and/or listening levels). But they will all be books that we have personally read and loved and recommend most highly.
(This series will be geared toward my homeschooling readers, although anyone who has a child in her life may find some treasures to share or to give as gifts.)
* * *
What about you? Are you a bibliophile? Are your shelves overflowing as mine were? (Does one ever have enough bookshelves?) Let's talk books!