“In Rome I had nearly five thousand volumes in my library. By reading and re-reading them, I discovered that one hundred and fifty books, carefully chosen, give you, if not a complete summary of human knowledge, at least everything that it is useful for a man to know. I devoted three years of my life to reading and re-reading them more or less by heart. In prison, with a slight effort of memory, I recalled them entirely. So I can recite to you Thucydides, Xenophon, Plutarch, Livy, Tacitus, Strada, Jornadès, Dante, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Spinoza, Machiavelli and Bossuet.”
Within a short time of his prison sentence nineteen year old Dantés was about to go mad because he had an unfurnished brain. Abbé Faria , on the other hand, had read widely which helped him to maintain his wits. He was never without something to think about.
This passage set me to thinking about the possibility of owning less books, but making the ones I have really count. Recently as I've read some blogs on minimalism I've been even more encouraged to let go of excess books. During our 20 years (and many moves) in Brazil, I've carried my library around with me because it gave me security to know that I would always have something to read or re-read. And, of course, I kept adding books for future "needs". I decluttered everything else before each move, but my books were sacrosanct.
Now, I'm rethinking all of that. I've started a list of "If I Could Only Have a Hundred Books" and I'm very careful about what goes on it. I'm making progress!