The books I had before going to live abroad were stored in a cupboard in the home of my sister and brother-in-law. As personal libraries go it wasn't very large, about 350 books. I had a list of them. Although some of them hadn't been in my hands for many years, I could still mentally feel them, see them, and smell them.
My sister wrote saying that, because of changes in their home, she could no longer keep them.
- "My feeling is that if you haven't wanted them all these years, they probably aren't wanted."
I wrote back with a list of about 30 books I asked her to keep, a short list of about 10 that really mattered to me, and a longer list that I hoped she would keep.
To her great credit, she did it.
- "It is an extremely time consuming job. The dining-table in the lounge is covered with your books! ... I can't believe you had a list!"
- "It would have been very easy, or rather relatively easy, to take all the books and throw them out. But I am having to sift through them...We'll get it done but X (her husband) did his rubbish and this is yours!"
- "All done! Dining-table is all clear!"
The rest of the books went to a charity shop. I used to write the date of purchase in the front endpapers of my books. Next week in a charity shop someone will pick up an old Penguin and see, written in fountain pen, in a schoolboy's joined-up handwriting, December 1965, and think, "Poor old fellow, I suppose he's dead now."