Wednesday, 31 March 2010

An Excess of Books - Lucy Coats

Headline News....Author's Book Buying Addiction Out of Control--Bookshelves Overwhelmed 
It's been a long convalescence since they chopped me and my back up at the beginning of February.  I'm not a terribly patient person, and lying in bed 'resting' for days and weeks and months is something I find quite trying.  Nevertheless, there have been consolations.  Apart from precious time to write, I have had 'bednet' to keep me in touch with developments in the outside world, and I've had books to read, which is the best legal way of passing time that I know of--and I didn't even have to feel guilty about doing it in the daytime.  Many beloved old favourites have featured in this reading fest, of course, but also piles and piles of lovely new books, which I have been buying lately with the sort of gay abandon Imelda Marcos used to use on  her shoes.  It's all got a bit out of control, really, and while I am not quite as overwhelmed as Arnold Lobel's picture book character (see above) who had 'books to the ceiling, books to the sky', I'm not far off that happy state of affairs. 

The trouble is, I am a book hoarder.  I'm not quite sure how many books I have, but it must be close to the 10,000 mark and growing.  Yes, you did read that right. TEN THOUSAND, mostly divided into subject matter and section, all in alphabetical order by author so I can put my hand on what I need immediately (I am also a librarian manqué).  There is no room for ornaments in my house.  Shelves are for the storing of literary stuff and nothing else.  I have built-in bookcases (here when I arrived), bought bookcases, and bookshelves I have put together myself with much swearing and bashed thumbs.  The Billy shelves from Ikea which live in my office are double and sometimes treble stacked, and now I am running out of room.  The picture below shows a mere fraction of the problem, and I'm not even mentioning the overflowing attics and the floors. 


My husband, the long suffering Wanton Toast Eater, has now issued a decree.  Books. Must. Go.  But which ones?  This question induces complete panic in me.  After all, I might need to refer to any of them at any time--even the old family ones I inherited from my grandmother and great-aunt which haven't been opened since 1953 or possibly since 1853 (hey, they might be valuable or have useful information in them).  I'll probably get around to filling one small box to placate his need for tidiness. Someday. With a great deal of snarling and begrudgery.  And by that time I will probably have bought more than enough to fill four large boxes. I see it as my citizen's contribution to ending the recession. But I'm beginning to wonder (in an idle sort of way) if we really need all those pictures on the walls.  After all, book spines are decorative in and of themselves. Aren't they?

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23 comments:

Katherine Langrish said...

You can't let them go! No! No! Nooooooo-oooo!

Lucy Coats said...

Well, to be honest, I probably won't, Kath. I'll just pretend and sneak them back in.

Charmaine Clancy said...

We've had the same book situation, all the bookshelves filled, bedside tables, floor space and crates and crates in the shed. We got rid of a LOT at a recent garage sale, but still so many. I love book but look forward to collecting more digitally on iPad or Kindle (depending on which device woos me the most).
It's hard to let go, but you get to make space for new books :-)

Stroppy Author said...

Books make excellent insulation. Cover all your walls in bookshelves and your heating bills will be lower.

Will that impress WTE?

(There's still lots of wall space in London... you could start putting up shelves there.)

catdownunder said...

Books are a form of interior decoration! Our books (my father and I own about 10,000 too - but between us) are double and treble stacked in the shelves.
If you give one away it will be the one you need - and the one which is no longer in print. Do it at your peril!

Lucy Coats said...

I'm going to make a list of all these reasons to keep books and present them as evidence to the Wanton Toast Eater! Ha! That'll fix him....

bookwitch said...

I just filled about eight bags for some charity or other. Room barely looks any better. BUT, I did find that thing Husband was looking for recently.

Art on the walls is very important, Lucy. That's the main cause for my problems. Books. Art. And the, erm, minimalism.

Linda said...

Don't do it! You NEED those books! and what would you put in their place? Samples of rare toasts?

Stroppy Author said...

Love the idea of rare toasts on the wall. Reminds me of my rare omlette gallery on neopets (oops).

Stroppy Author said...

(i can spell omelette really)

Rosalind Adam said...

Possibly playing devil's advocate here but if you give some of those lovely books to a charity then people who really can't afford to go to bookshops would be able to enjoy them too... or you could just horde them like I do!

Book Maven said...

Anne has the right idea! Ship loads up to London. I wish I had a separate pad for some of mine or actually some of husband's because his study is REALLY overflowing.

Linda Strachan said...

I have the same problem.
Him Indoors keeps telling me that I need to get rid of some of them but which ones,? No, I can't bear to part with them. I also have inherited books, some I am looking forward to reading (when I have time...time - what is that?)
No, I am with you Lucy, and all the other book hoarders.
Also making list of good reasons suggested here.

Just noticed you have some of the the Robin Hobb - Liveship Traders series. Have you read The Dragon Keeper, book one of her new series 'Rain Wild Chronicles'?

madwippitt said...

Nononono you can;'t get rid of them ... I've spent small fortunes over the years replacing the books my Mum threw out during house moves and during the years when I caved into pressure to reduce numbers ... it will only cost you lots of money in years to come, and some books (like my copy of Martin Pippin or Land of Green Ginger or Seventh Swan are well nigh impossible to come by. At sensible prices anyway) But I do have a solution - give them to me! I still have a few spaces left and I MIGHT let you borrow them, back again ... :-) And very happy to see you have a copy of Narrowdog nestling on a shelf - have you read the US one? Which is equally wonderful if not more so. More pics of your shelves would bwe nice, I do love to browse other people's books ...

Lucy Coats said...

This will be an evidence mountain soon--but I shan't be mentioning the rare toast and omelette art. He might go for that, avant garde man that he is, and then where would I be with my newly found bookspace?

On another note, the lovely Norman Geras has written about this blogpost. How V flattering--and he's another book hoarder so we're all in good company! You can read his thoughts at http://bit.ly/9xa79F

@Linda S--yes, I have read the Dragon Keeper and also the next on in the Rain Wild series which is just out. They are both excellent. At least, I think so.

Juliette said...

I cannot get rid of books. In my late teens, in an attempt to 'grow up' etc, I got rid of loads of children's books... only to find myself, at 26, going to a conference on Classics in Children's Literature and wanting them all back again. Lesson learned - never get rid of books! :)

steeleweed said...

You have my sympathy and support...hope you don't have to choose choose books or WTE...LOL.

About every 4 or 5 years, I used to cull my bookshelves, getting rid of about 90% of the 'new' books. I have gotten more discriminating on what I buy, so the cull now rids me of only about 50% of more recent purchases. After 60 years of doing this, 90% of my books are boxed up and in storage, which makes them essentially useless but gives me a warm fuzzy feeling knowing I could get to them if really necessary.

When I retire, my next home will be a (large) barn with 20-foot ceilings, all walls totally booked - I always wanted one of those ladders-on-rails to reach the top shelves.

Nicky S (Absolute Vanilla) said...

He issued a decree, did he? Deny him toast, forthwith! You cannot possibly be expected to "let books go" - they will never forgive you, they will come back and haunt you, and the ones you keep will embark on a massive breeding programme - they do that, you know, the side of my bed is testament to that. And if it's any consolation, your shelves and house sound just as wonderful as mine with all those lovely books.

Linda Strachan said...

Oh, Didn't know the next one in the series was out, thanks Lucy! looking forward to it, I really enjoyed the first one, too.

Michael Malone said...

Lucy, you have my full permission to pretend to throw them out and sneak them back in. The fact is, this is your duty! Books are not just for xmas/ birthdays/ weekends/ after work/ before bed/ in the bath/ coffee breaks et al, they are for ever.

Elaine AM Smith said...

Don't do it - either it! Don't get rid of books you love and don't ditch the art. How about a rotation system? Fallow, furrow and sow - keep everything on the move regularly - he'll never realise it's all still there ;)

Yunaleska said...

10k? I feel much better at having 100 :) (without any extra zeros).

There must be a way to keep some of your books, mustn't there?

Saviour Pirotta said...

I gave away a lot of books when I moved house four years ago, and I regret parting with every single one. Don't give your books away, give them a home.