I love books. That’s a given. (Hello, I’m a writer.) But it’s been a while now that I’ve grown well aware of my problem where books are concerned. I have a lot of them. And I don’t have room for all of them.
Reading this Salon article this morning struck a chord with me, because I’ve been doing something somewhat similar. My sentiments are slightly different. I don’t hate books; I can’t imagine ever saying that! Hate books? That’s like hating your children—of course, I don’t have children so I can only try to imagine what hating your children must be like, and maybe if I were the parent of, say, Rush Limbaugh or something, I might come close, but even then I suspect what I felt would be less hate than crushing disappointment in the sad spectacle of humanity that they’ve grown up to become.
Sorry, tangent. That happens. Where was I? Right, books. No, I don’t hate them. But! I do get anxious when I look at the bookshelves and see books stacked sideways on top of and in front of other books, or piled on the nightstand waiting to be read. That’s the problem, I think. I have a lot of books that I’ve bought and have yet to read. I’m trying to do something about that this summer, of course. (And being a poor graduate student at the moment has done wonders for my book-buying habit. I’ve almost gone cold turkey and haven’t bought a single new book this summer.) I’ve already started putting books in my suitcase to take back to school with me, to keep me from giving in to the temptation to buy anything new until I’ve read what I already have.
As for what I have that I’ve already read, I’ve started culling.
It’s not easy, because there are lots of them. Since they’re not terribly well-organized at the moment either, I’ve also been alphabetizing and reshelving as I’ve been going along. I won’t say that I’ve touched every book I own so far, but I’ve handled a fair number of them. And for more than a few, it was probably the last time I’ll handle them.
So now there are five boxes of books (including one box of literary journals) that are waiting to be taken to the local bookstore that takes used books for resale in exchange for store credit. That sounds kind of like it might be defeating the purpose, right? Turn in books, get credit that you can use to buy even more books! Luckily, the store sells e-books as well, so that’s an option.
But here’s the thing. Unlike the writer of that article in Salon, I do love books. I love the feel of the pages, the look of the covers. I love being able to glance at the shelves in order to see if I’ve read something (because I have a terrible memory and it’s nearly impossible for me to call up the titles of things I’ve read apart from my desert-island list). I love being able to flip through the pages to find a particular passage. I love leaving Post-its and random slips of paper in them. Those artifacts can provide a bit of a snapshot of what I was thinking while I was reading a particular book.
I don’t like dusting them, though, and I don’t like moving them.
There are more than a few books that I can’t imagine ever getting rid of—they’ve been signed by the author, or they’re written by friends of mine (or both). Or they have my own writing in them—a number that I’m glad to see increasing. I have an e-reader but don’t often use it, though I do tend to read more books on, of all places, my iPod (which used to be my phone but no longer has an account attached to it). There’s something satisfying about flipping through screen after screen of type so quickly. People see me with my phone and probably think I’m texting or emailing, when actually I’m reading my friend Greg’s ebook-only mystery series or the book I just checked out of the library.
That’s what I’ve been trying to do more often these days: check books out of the library, both physical and electronic. The nice thing is that I can checked out ebooks even while I’m at school in Vancouver. I don’t buy a lot of ebooks really; I still like the paper variety too much. But, I’m trying to change my ways.
I’ll probably go through the shelves one more time before I head back to school next month to see what else I can live without, or what else I can take with me. I’ve got a couple shelves full of books back in Vancouver, and my hope is that, with a few exceptions, I’ll find homes for all of them before I leave.