March 8, 2016

I spent a good deal of time complaining on here about how devastated I was losing my books. So I thought I should post an update about some amazing things that have happened since then.

After years of carefully curating my book collection, scouring bookstores for old copies of my favorite books, refusing to sell the books I read for my English classes in college no matter how broke I was, and browsing shelves for new finds, they were all gone in an instant. All 300 of my books. My heart broke. But then my friends and family helped me start to put back the pieces. All of these books were either given to my by friends and family or bought on a shopping spree where Nick told me to go nuts:

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It may seem shallow to be upset about “stuff,” but I think that the things we keep with us say a lot about who we are and who we want to be. I’ve always collected books because I love to read and because it makes me happy to look at my book collection. Owning an old book gives me a connection to the author and to everyone who owned the book before me. Looking at books on my bookshelf brings back memories of who gave me the book, where I was when I read it, and how it made me feel. I love loaning out my favorite books to my friends and family and hearing how much they love them.

Before I even knew what happened, while our things were still in transit with mold rapidly devouring them, my brother gave me two books for Christmas. He gave me I Am Malala which one is one of my favorite books ever. He also gave me Fahrenheit 451, which I’ve been wanting to read. Here’s to brothers who know you the best!

Soon after The Incident, my friend Eli, who was my maid of honor, rallied together my friends and family to get a gift card for me to buy new books. What was most incredible about this is that she was able to get people I love from all over the world involved – Morocco, France, and all over the US. She sneakily emailed all of them and set up a website where they all could chip in. What meant most to me, even more than the gift card itself, was that all of my friends were in cahoots thinking about me to pull of this epic surprise. It made me feel so special. I was in shock and still get teary when I think about it. I have awesome friends.

So far, I’ve only gotten one book, American Gods, with the gift card. I have a huge amount of books in my cart, but I need to think carefully about which books to get before I make my big purchase!

Then my friends, the very same friends who already gave me money to buy new books myself, started sending and giving me books.

My friend Joe recently went to Vienna. The book and note he sent to me was probably the sweetest thing I’ve ever gotten in the mail:

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My friend Christy sent me 4 books — two of my favorites and two I haven’t read! She sent me The History of Love, The Thirteenth Tale, The White Tiger, and Eat, Pray, Love.

And then my friend Joyce brought Fates and Furies and The Almost Moon to her own birthday party for me. I haven’t read either of these.

My friend Jenny, who lives in Hawaii, texted me to tell me that she found a bunch of Harry Potter novels and a few other of my favorites. She’s holding them for me until we can see each other in person.

I love old books. I love to collect first editions of my favorite books and I had quite a few of them in my old collection. So after I lost everything, Nick took me to The Strand, a used bookstore in New York City, and we went searching for some of my favorites that we knew would be hard to find elsewhere. He told me to go nuts getting whichever books I wanted. I left that day with an armful of books, including The Classic Fairy Tales, Peter Pan, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and Fearless Girls, Wise Women, and Beloved Sisters.  But what I was most excited about that day was this old copy of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan and Wendy, adapted for children and illustrated:

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I will read this book to my children one day. It had to go on my bookshelf.

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On Valentine’s Day, Nick gave me Tree and Leaf, by JRR Tolkien. I had never heard of it before, but it’s an essay about fairy tales, about the importance of them for both children and adults, about why they are so important and what makes a good fairy tale. I love fairy tales – they are my favorite kinds of stories. I even wrote my senior thesis in college on Harry Potter, with a big section devoted to the important of fantasy and fairy tales. I devoured this book in a few sittings.

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Although my books were the most sentimental thing I lost, Nick and I also have to replace all of our furniture, all of our electronics, and a good deal of kitchen items. You know, things we actually need. As soon as we found this out, my dad ran out and bought me a coffee maker. He knows that the number 1 thing I can’t live without is a coffee maker! My dad is a carpenter, and now he is also building us some new furniture! I will be sure to post pictures and updates – he is so talented and creative.

I feel like our home will be even more cozy, even more special to me now. It’s starting to be filled up with things that mean the most to me, given to me by the people who mean the most to me. I never would have owned Tree and Leaf or JM Barrie’s Peter Pan and Wendy, or many of the other books that my friends sent me recently, if I hadn’t lost so much. I can’t imagine how many books I will read now that I wouldn’t have read if my collection never got lost. I’m starting to see the silver lining to this mess, and it’s beautiful.

I don’t think I will ever look at my book collection quite the same ever again.

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13 responses to “Rebuilding my book collection, with a little help from my friends.”

  1. LisaLDN says:

    It would completely devastate me as well, to lose my book Collection! I definitely understand you. It seems that you have some exciting additions to Your New Collection, though – that’s so great! 🙂

    • Carolann says:

      I don’t think I ever would have come across some of these books otherwise, so I am trying to look on the positive side! Thanks Lisa.

  2. I still can’t believe that you lost everything! I know that I would have been just as upset as you about losing all of my books because even though they’re just things they really do mean a lot. You have such amazing friends to not only send you some gift cards to start your collection over, but to also find books and send them to you!

  3. Jenn says:

    That is so great that so many people have pitched in an helped with your book collection! It’s definitely little things like that, that remind us how blessed we are 🙂 I’m glad there has been a silver lining for you in all of this!

    • Carolann says:

      I know it wasn’t a huge tragedy or anything, but my friends knew how special these books were to me. Knowing that it wasn’t exactly an emergency but that my friends are there for me anyway, to make me smile just meant the world to me.

  4. Your optimism is so infectious Carolann! That is such a great approach and it sounds like you have some wonderful people in your life who have helped you through this. SUCH a sweet note from your friend who found that book in Vienna. You must have been so moved. I’m so glad your new home is filling with books again and by the way, I read I Am Malala last year too and I think it’s probably one of my three favourite books ever!

    • Carolann says:

      Thanks so much Shikha! I think that as a military spouse you learn to look at the glass half full — otherwise you will LOSE YOUR MIND! haha! That was probably one of the sweetest notes a friend has ever sent me, I will cherish it forever. It’s incredible how people come together for the people they love, even in something as little as this.

  5. Flick says:

    I’m sad your filter registered my comment as spam so wouldn’t publish it! I’m so sorry for your loss, that’s really traumatic. I wish I could send you books, I’m currently giving a load away to charity. I’d be horrified if my Tolkien books went mouldy (they’re original editions falling apart but I love them). I haven’t read that Tolkien so will look out for it!

    • Carolann says:

      I’m so sorry about the filter, Flick, but thanks for reposting so I could get this message! Wow – first edition Tolkien books are a treasure indeed. If you love Tolkien I think you should check out Tree and Leaf! I hope you like it.

  6. Emma says:

    Your friends are good, good people! Books are SO important!

    • Carolann says:

      They really are! I am so lucky to have friends who are so thoughtful and generous and also know how important books are to me. I don’t know how I got so lucky!!

  7. […] came to our wedding signed, and a drawing that a professor had done for me in college. Im actively replacing my book collection and it’s so much fun to have my favorite books […]

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