Tuesday, 22 April 2008

On books and book hoarding

A visiting son, surveying the crammed bookcases in every room (not to mention the piles of books on surfaces and floors) asked me 'don't you ever get rid of any books?' And the answer of course is no. I know I'll probably never read more than half a dozen of them again, but that's not the point. I simply can't bear to part with books; any books. I love to HAVE them, look at them, remember where and when I read them, why I loved (or hated) them, lend them (and forget who I've lent them to). It's a kind of greed. I have books on subjects I'm not at all interested in, books I've inherited, books from childhood, stolen school text books. We have friends who literally discard paperbacks as soon as they've read them, and I find this quite incredible. Someone said that books furnish a room. I think they furnish a life. What does anyone else think? What do you do with your books?


Doug Worgul said...

guilty as charged

Faye L. said...

I can't begin to understand why anyone would only read a novel once. I'm always left wondering whether they only watch films once (either at the cinema or via rented DVDs), listen to songs once or look at paintings once. Most bizarre.

As for my own book collection, I hoarde everything I enjoyed and/or found informative, interesting or whatever. I don't, however, keep everything - anything I didn't like or no longer have any real use for is either sold on Amazon Marketplace or traded on BookHopper.

Len Tyler said...

Me too, as my family will despairingly tell you. I don't throw books away - I just try to sneak more bookcases into the house when nobody is looking. Occasionally I throw out a book because, frankly, it deserves to be thrown out; but I've kept the Da Vinci Code, so the bar is not set that high. If you write a lot of parody, as I do, you never know what you'll want to re-read. Some books (e.g. Brideshead Revisited, Pride and Prejudice, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) I've read more times than I can remember. Occasionally I throw out a book because it has literally fallen apart - years spent in Africa and the far east mean that a lot of my books have suffered alternate damp and extreme dryness, which seems to cause the glue to crack up a bit. Some of my books can be re-read only with extreme care.

crimeficreader said...

I am currently the star donator to a Barnardo's Book Shop. I've signed up for the tax relief scheme on physical donations to be sold and they love me even more. Not as much as I love them for taking my books, you understand.

I was recently forced into a major cull as both my parents died last year. I'd kept my retired father going with purchases and had to face the fact that a lot of the books would not in fact make it to my own retirement for reading. There's so much new writing that tempts - the MNW crew as a prime example - that I simply had to take stock. I also had a lot of books from my teenage years. I also had a lot of books stored at my parents' house - my mother always nagged me to take them to my own home.

I don't have enough shelves in my own house and more are shortly to be installed. Then the books in boxes and bags can finally be unpacked and put in order. I also have other smaller "piles" around the house and odd placements of books delivered. My house is probably the every day person's nightmare and the bibliophile's dream. Especially, in the case of the latter, if they like and/or collect crime fiction. Yes, I can claim to have books in every room apart from the kitchen (smells and potential spatter a no no - to be avoided), but I make up for this with books in the hallway and on a bookcase on the landing. Currently, two reside in the bathroom.

This, after a cull! But I've been forced to rationalise:

1. Keep HBs, and always the signed copies.
2. Ditch the PBs read and those not likely to be read, even if signed.
3. Ditch the HBs never likely to be read. But hold on a moment, think again. Going digital might mean they could be worth something eventually. Perhaps better to hold on.
4. Definitely ditch the HBs that are now old fashioned and fallen out of taste. I can regret that one at 70+ and Barnardo's might have made a fortune.

It's so hard giving up any of these treasures, apart from the PBs. But I simply don't have enough storage space. At the moment, I even have some books in a storage facility. What does this say about me? Possessed, not even obsessed?

And yes, it's often hard to put my hands on the one I want at the time...

Aliya Whiteley said...

We move house roughly every two years with Hubby's job and each time I try to part with as many books as possible. Last time I managed seven. This should give you some idea of the extent of the problem.

Luckily my father makes the most sublime bookcases, so I always have an attractive home for my little buddies.

Eliza Graham said...

I often give mine away or put them in the book recycling bin unless they're books I know I'll want to reread. I have little sentimentality about books unless they were presents or signed copies.

Tim Stretton said...

I tried a few years ago, when approaching the house's shelving capacity, to institute a 'one in, one out' policy, which was a predictably dismal failure.

Occasionally when jumble sales come around I get rid of some, but these are more often Other Half's than mine.

Will I ever read any Patricia Cornwell book again? Almost certainly not, but they stay on the 'C' shelf (yes, I impose a semblance of order by approximating alphabetical shelving...)

Frances said...

Thanks for all that. I took one book to the Oxfam shop today. Well, it's a start. And Tim, when we last moved house I too put all our books in alphabetical order. This works until you have to squeeze in extra books, and then the system begins to fall apart (unless you do the one in, one out thing, which means getting rid of books again. Oh dear).

David Isaak said...

We've moved 32 times in the last 26 years. Before we moved from Oregon to Hawaii, we gave away most of our books.

A horrible mistake. I'd want to loan someone a book and wouldn't have it; and another copy was nowhere to be found. That would be easier now with used books available on the internet, but being unable to find books left permanent scars on our psyches. So now we have several thousand books we drag around the world with us.

It makes me feel rich.