When I was growing up we didn’t have any extra money, so every book I read came from the library. I remember winning a couple of books through book-reading challenges at the library; those were precious.

Buying textbooks in college was a stretch financially, and I never bought books for pleasure. Then I went to graduate school and had to spend more on books, but they were more valuable to me than in college because I thought I was building a reference library in my field (theology). Then those bookshelves became “evidence of past learning.” People would come into my office and see all my books and know I had been to seminary! Plus I would research them for my sermon-writing.

Then two things happened: 1) the internet — and availability of some good reference materials in digital format; and 2) I became more aware of the economics of publishing — and more willing to buy a book simply to support the person who wrote it. After all, if I read it from the library, it does the author no good.

So that meant I simultaneously bought more books and was less attached to what I bought. Now I use a Kindle too and my intention is to purchase books in digital format most of the time. And I still use the library because I love libraries! But I will rather quickly buy a book at an author reading, especially if it’s a new author.

I don’t keep books, generally. I figure that if a book ISN’T good, I don’t want to keep it. If a book IS good, I want to give it to someone else to read. So I end up keeping only books that I haven’t read yet, or may want to reread (which is a truly small number) or which are reference books on scripture. Also, since there are four people in our house, sometimes books hang around for quite a while until everyone gets a chance to read it if they would like to.

I have given away shelves and shelves full of theology reference books too. At my last church I didn’t keep books in the office , as that wasn’t where I physically wrote my sermons. So I had a couple handy books, usually pastorally-focused there, something I might lend to someone about parenting, or marriage, or whatever.

But I have no need to convince anyone I am smart or well-educated by the books on my shelves. I am modestly smart and modestly educated. Hopefully people know that by talking to me. I never framed my diplomas either. I don’t need clutter which is “evidence of past learning.” I’m more interested in the future than the past


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