Buried Under My Books

One of these days I’m not going to be able to leave my house because it’s been filled to the top with books. I’m exaggerating, of course, but probably like many of you, I’ve got oodles of well worn tomes hanging about on shelves and tables, stacked up and tossed, margin noted or not.

I’ve got a decent poetry collection, and a whole shelf of books on Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy, I’ve got non-fiction biographies of physicists (Feynman and his books especially) as well as books on cryptography and the NSA. I’ve got art books. And cook books – don’t get me started. I’ve saved books I read when I was a kid (Harriet the Spy anyone?) and I’ve got picture books I love. I’ve got books about people who cook and their opinions about gastronomy (especially cooks and chefs from NYC).

And then there’s the short story collections. Oh boy, do I have a ton of those. Best American Short Stories, and Pushcart and invididual authors and more. And then there’s books about writing… writing plays, screen plays, writing short stories, and crafting characters and no plot no problem and the rest of it. (I still say Stephen King’s book On Writing is one of the best.) No book collection would be complete without a bunch of dictionaries, and I’ve got those too.

I haven’t even talked about novels, because it’s so obvious I’d have a gazillion of those, right? Everything from the classics to recent Pulitzer winners to dollar finds on the sale rack and everything in between.

Although I’m surrounded by all these books, I must admit most of these books I have not read twice. Why do I keep all these books I love, just because I read them? I don’t know, but I know it’s what I’ve always done. I read a book and think, oh that was wonderful, and put it on the shelf and enjoy looking at the title knowing I read it. Then I forget it’s there because I’ve moved on to my next book…and the next.

But I don’t know how to part with my James Joyce Reader, or Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (actually I read this from time to time.)

A friend of mine and I were recently discussing Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. I instantly knew I had a copy of it, although I have not picked the book up in two decades. I’m not kidding (about either fact…) And it got me to thinking, why do I need a copy of Winesburg, Ohio? I don’t think I do. And I don’t think I need every single book I have on my shelves either…but where to begin in parting with them?

How do you deal with this, dear reader? For some of you, if space is a severe constraint, have you boxed your books and put them in storage? Do you only use the public library? Do you read the books you buy and immediately give them to someone else, donate them, or discard them (perish the latter)?

Even if space is not a severe constraint, how are you handling the dozens, or hundreds, of books you’ve accumulated?

I think it’s time for me to seriously consider a partial divestiture…

9 Responses

  1. I broke down and bought a NC to go to almost mostly ebooks just to avoid having to build another house out of the books in my house.. to make room for more books.

  2. Well – this is quite the subject to get me started on. When we relocated to Oregon from California – it was epic. Not being able to afford to ship all of my books, I had to make some grueling and heartbreaking decisions (I’m happy to report that both Harriet the Spy and Stephen King’s On Writing made the cut!) I gave a lot of the ones I didn’t want to let go of, but had to in order to make room for others I REALLY didn’t want to let go of, to my daughters and some friends. I also did determine the ones that I loved (primarily novels), but knew it was highly unlikely I would ever read again, had to go. The cookbooks? Oh Lord, that was tough. I still miss several of them!
    Now that I have my Kindle & Kindle Fire, and have survived letting go of so many (although still missing a few here and there, and yes, I have re-purchased them!), I am now more committed to not having to shepherd so many books around and find space for them. We moved to a bigger place last year, and I was grateful that there were only 20 boxes of books to move as opposed to 200.
    As avid lovers of the word – I think it is a way to keep those little pieces of wonder alive for us. Don’t you get an awesome feeling when you look at that old Scholastic Books cover of Harriet with her journal tucked under her arm walking along the sidewalk? So to just keep a few would really make me feel empty, as though a piece of my history were lost – whatever that says about me. It also reminds me why I love to write – because I want to create the feeling for someone else out there. I think that’s how I feel about my CD’s and DVD’s as well. Hmmmm…
    Finally – what about Irma’s Big Lie and the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler? I kept those too…

    • Do you have ANY idea how much and how often I feel like we were twin sisters separated at birth?

      I’m sitting here reading your reply and nodding my head. Harriet was a particular favorite of mine because she was a tomboy, and curious and smart … AND she lived in New York City. And the Mixed Up Files? Oh, what a classic!

      Another book I still keep, because it is too precious not to is The Secret Garden. I haven’t read it in many decades but I still remember learning about the “quick” and how that meant the shoots were green and growing…

      Thanks so much for your reply, it was uplifting!

      • That’s too funny – I had the same feeling when out of all the books ( and I know you must have many – lol) you could have named, you picked Harriet & On Writing!

  3. buy a bigger house and use a special room for library. Since you are a librarian you can roganize them accordingly.

  4. You may need bigger house. Let your children or whoever inherit you throw away or sell your books. Unless if they are gossip magazines or books that you don’t need keep the books.

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