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…