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Cathi Kennedy ponders how her reading preferences have changed over time, reflecting the changes in the woman she has become.

Name a significant life event, and I can tell you what book I was reading at the time. Their physical presence and the stories that spill out intertwine in my memories. Over the years, I have tried to pare down the number of books I have. Please note that I worked at a bookstore for five years where I got 30% off, so they were practically free!  

I don't typically subscribe to Marie Kondo's vision of decluttering, but recently I Marie Kondo'd the hell out of my bookshelves. Some were easy to throw in the donate pile: Great Expectations (two copies), all my Scribner Classic Shakespeare plays, Gardening Classics. Donate, donate, donate.  

The Italian phrasebooks I bought for the solo trip to Italy I was planning right before I met that cute guitar guy (my soon-to-be husband). I held them and remembered that girl and how fiercely independent she was. Donate.  

The journal I kept while my dad was dying. I LOVE journals. I'm terrible at journaling. I found at least five in pristine condition. I remember writing in this one in the cool shade of my dad's porch or sitting on the scratchy bed covers in his spare room. Kept—although I still can't bear to read the words I wrote.  




I bought a blue book of short stories at Barnes & Noble when I saw the cute guitar guy play an open mic night. That night was just months after my dad had died, and I felt like a boat with no rudder. I held this one, knowing that God had put me exactly where I needed to be. Kept.  

The Ellery Queen box set I bought my Dad for Christmas; books he held in his hands. He opened the world of literature and mystery for me. He knew I'd rather go to the musty-smelling paperback swap store than the mall any day. Kept.  

The feminist literature I bought when I was a Doc Martens-wearing, don't-need-a-man-to-make-me-worthy 20-something. I held it in my hands and thanked that person I was then; thank you for being so sure about everything and knowing nothing at all. Donate.  

My beloved James Herriot novels. By the time I was a teenager, I'd read them all maybe half a dozen times. Holding those brought back a flood of memories of a house that held more books than I'd ever seen except at a library. Treasure. Kept and moved to my "read again this Fall" pile.  

I held the dog-eared Lake Woebegon Days and remembered that NYE when the guitar guy handed it to me and told me he loved it and wanted to share it with me. Kept.  

I'd been keeping books by favorite authors just because they're favorite authors. I kept Garp and Owen Meany and donated Son of the Circus and A Widow for One Year. I kept Interview with a Vampire and donated Taltos


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Name a significant life event, and I can tell you what book I was reading at the time. #CatholicMom


We aren't who we used to be. This process confirmed it. The independent woman I was in my 20s has learned to be more giving, less proud. My bookshelves now hold books about saints, biblical tradition, prayer, and faith. Fewer vampires and more popes.   

It all shapes us. Not just the books I’ve read but also the relationships I've formed, the steps I've taken, and the choices I've made. It all counts. I'm grateful for every iteration that I've been. And I'm thankful that every day is a new opportunity to lean further into who God wants me to be.  



Copyright 2023 Cathi Kennedy
Images: Canva