When Books Attack

I was procrastinating purging my bookshelves this weekend, in an attempt to make room for new books. Unlike the TARDIS, my bookshelves are not bigger on the inside. I wish I had infinite space for books. I kinda do on my e-reader, and ebooks are one of the sweetest inventions of mankind. But sometimes I want to hold a book in my hands, feel the heft, smell the pages, pet the cover. Sometimes only a paper book will do. And sometimes in my quest to support my fellow writers, I end up buying the Kindle version, the epub version, and all that is left is to purchase the paper version. (I’m looking at you, Carolyn Crane,  Patti O’Shea, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jill Barnett,  Susan Kay Law, Jill Shalvis, Kristin Hannah, the late Vince Flynn, Seanan McGuire, Marjorie M. Liu, just to name a few).

I don’t live in the TARDIS, or in a library, and my husband refuses to add more bookshelves to the house so I can live in a library. This means finite space. And finite space means difficult choices about which books to keep and which books I need to let back into the wild, trusting they will find their way to kind and loving homes. And I put off making these decisions until my husband bitches about the piles of books around the house I absolutely must.

When Hubs brings up the piles of books I know he’s quickly reaching a breaking point. He has a desire for order and items out of place are not, ahem, order. No matter how artistically I arrange these piles, to him the books are not in their right place. The right place would be neatly placed on a bookshelf. A bookshelf that is not stuffed for overflowing with the written word, mind you. A neat and tidy and aesthetically pleasing bookshelf.

I have a lot going against me here. I’m tidy, but I’m okay with some clutter. I like a home that is lived in and cozy, and horizontal surfaces that are completely free and clear from stuff makes me shudder. A minimalist I am not. I have made peace with this. Hubs is trying to make peace with this. It’s actually cute to watch him try. And because he tries so hard, I try to meet him halfway. When he tells me he notices the clutter, I try to do something about said clutter. In this case, organize and purge some books.

I had a system where if I had purchased a book and hadn’t read it come book purge time, the book would automatically go to GoodWill or be gifted to a friend who might enjoy it. Then I started collecting auto buy authors like my nephews collect Pokémon cards and the one year rule no longer fit. While I try to read books as soon as I get them, sometimes I purchase a crap ton of books at one time. Sometimes I purchase a book on release day to give the author that NYT bestseller list boost, but I’m not in the mood to read the book immediately. So the book sits and I may not pick it up for some time. Then there are the books where I read the ebook but didn’t read the paper book but want to keep the paper book because what if my Nook breaks and I’m unable to get a new one and I want to reread the book? Or the zombie apocalypse is upon us and I can no longer charge my Nook? Or I just want to hold a paper book and read for no reason other than just because?

Can you tell I’m excellent at justifying book purchases? Yeah, Hubs noticed this as well.

With books reproducing at a significant rate, I had to do something drastic. First, I had to admit I have a wee bit of a problem when it comes to the compulsive need to own books, sometimes multiple copies of a book. Bookaholics Anonymous may be in my future. In the mean time, I decided to get real and hold an intervention for myself and asked myself the following questions about each of the over 1500 fiction novels I own:

  1. What were the chances I would read the book for the first time (if never read) or reread the book in the future?
  2. If chances were slim, I asked the following to ensure I wasn’t going to do something I would regret:
    • Would the library have the book if I had the yen to read it in the future?
    • Was the book autographed to me by the author?
    • Was the book part of a series where I was keeping the rest of the books?
    • Did I already own the electronic version of the book?

Books that fell into the very slim chance of reading/rereading categories were set aside. Books that were set aside were reviewed against the additional criteria. Simply by purging the books that weren’t part of a series that I wasn’t likely to read/reread in the future, I was able to minimize the piles so there was only one by my nightstand AND clear a shelf for future purchases. Of course, some of the books I purged were hardcovers where I plan to replace with paperbacks because everyone knows paperbacks take up less room. There are only ten in this category, thank goodness!

I have a problem. I love books. I collect them like other women collect shoes. Or how my nephews collect Pokémon cards. I’m okay with that.

2 comments

  1. I recognise all this. I did the same thing when I moved from a largish house to a small flat when I separated from my husband and things had to go. There are quite a lot that I still refuse to get rid of, even though I have them on Kindle, where they are easier to read (I like long books) and carry, yet still I refuse to throw away the really good ones.

    1. It’s hard to get rid of books, especially the ones that have shaped me as a reader and as a writer. My husband dreams of downsizing to a much smaller house. I will be willing to give up closet space in order to retain room for my books.

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