Paring down the book collection

Starting with four bags of books removed from my husband’s antiques space–he has no room for them now–I began to cull out the books I no longer need to have. Notice, I didn’t say “want” to have, because I generally want them all. But I’ve watched enough episodes of ‘Hoarders’ to recognize that my connection to books is a little unhealthy, and that I won’t likely live long enough to read them all either.
So I’m thinning out the shelves, selecting some for re-sale elsewhere, a bunch for the library and a bagful for a friend who likes mysteries of a certain kind.
Such paring down will barely dent the collection, but it’s a good start.
I get rid of popular novels and paperbacks first. They have the shelf life of bread, and they sell fast. To the consignment store go old Nora Roberts and Mark Higgins Clark books, two barely touched cookbooks (my family is snickering now), “Islands,” a great beach read by Ann Rivers Siddons, a hardcover of Amy Tan’s “Saving Fish from Drowning,” good–but I can part with it, Sandra Dallas’ “Prayers for Sale,” a touching story about a young mother-to-be and the old woman who befriends her in a mountain town during the Depression. The “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is going too… I have no real prospects of giving that to a friend in the near future.
And there are a handful of books I hoped to read, but don’t believe I’ll get to in the press of more compelling possibilities. My taste changes every few years, and these haven’t made it. But someone else will enjoy them, I’m sure.
To the library go a couple of dozen thrillers my husband whips through like dessert–Connellys, Ludlums, Cussler, King, Lecarre, Baldacci, Clancy and the like. He pulled back a James Lee Burke, whose writing he loves. He doesn’t part with anything by Ivan Doig, either. Doig’s, I agree, is a unique voice spanning genres.
The library also gets cookbooks, master works I bought but couldn’t really enjoy because of style or content, top-sellers I read but won’t keep, like “The Lovely Bones” and “Life of Pi.” Nothing wrong with them–just won’t read them again.
Sorting through books forces one to prioritize, bowing to the real needs and preferences when there are simply too many books to house. I have a dozen bookcases of varying shapes, each packed to the edges with classics, signed editions, favorite authors, best-sellers, histories, biographies and special interest nonfiction.
I would dearly love to trade them for new ones.
But sadly, there isn’t enough time to organize something like that and, even sadder, books are easy to get and lose monetary value as soon as they leave the store.
I love books. I disdain mass-produced cheap paperbacks in favor of the larger, more attractive editions so many authors are published in today. Hard covers don’t have much appeal unless they’re truly beautiful, or signed, and I keep only the ones I will read, re-read or share.
Of course, this may sound very austere. Realize that I have more books than a small bookshop. If I had my druthers, that is also what I would be doing, offering free wi-fi, coffee, tea and tidbits, and lots of books. And if we ever buy a place with retail space for my hubby’s antiques and my books, that is what I will do, setting up my own computer on a nearby desk to keep at my own fiction.
And I would stop writing freelance articles about things that don’t really interest me, and write only about the things I love. Like my T.C. Boyle book review (“When the Killing’s Done”) just published on the Head Butler blog.
Bookshelves hold books, but more than that, they hold lives, inspiration, and dreams. Not for me the Nook, or anything like it. They’re good tools, but not the stuff of imagination.
I hope for a long, healthy life, so that I can enjoy them all, and write to my heart’s content.

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