I’ll be graduating soon and for the first time ever, really, I will not be spending most of my book money on course literature. Which is not to say that many of these books were not ones I enjoyed and want to keep, but some were indeed books I lugged around with me from place to place and never touched after the term paper was handed in. So in considering the current state of my shelves, how much I’ve grown as a reader and a person over the last years and also that I will probably be moving again sometime this year, well I decided it was a good time to start thinking about building a personal library.
My first step will be getting rid of more books (no worries, I’ll donate them). I’ve been sorting out books over the last year and frankly, it has been a relief. Not beholden to any institution or reading list any longer, I started looking through my bookstacks, yes also those in the very back, and found that about half of my library is made up of classics, dudebro lit and other mainstream white works. And so, I find my shelves are in desperate need of decolonizing.
Why do this? For me, this is a project of personal growth and working at transformation and social justice. It’s not a corset I’m trying to make myself fit into, or strange restrictions to make my reading life harder. This is who I am and who I hope to be and I want to surround myself with the thoughts and experiences of other people at the margins. I want to look at my shelves as a how-to on transformation, a place of support and an archive of knowledge.
Consider this an intro post, because writing about building a personal library is something I want come back to more often in the coming months, partly to document my progress (yes, there will be pics) and partly to think more on various specific building blocks. These are the acquisition of backlists of my favorite writers, secondary literature and non-fiction on race, feminism, food justice and history of medicine, and novels by women of color and further intersections beyond the few core texts I have. An example is that I have started to look for German writers of color, which is much more difficult than it should be and so I need to educate myself on where to find these works because I want to connect more with my own history. Hopefully, decolonizing my shelves will go hand in hand with decolonizing my mind. Big words, but this is necessary.
What’s the start of your personal library? Are you happy with it or do you have any plans?