I love books more than almost anything. I’m the very opposite of those people who find going into a bookshop to be a dull or anxious experience. Anxious is what I feel when I go into clothes-shops, shoe-shops or other shops.
Bookshops, especially good well-stocked bookshops, offer me a sense of relaxation and peace. I know where I am. I see lots of things I’d like. I don’t have to worry about size or fashion. My only fear is that I’ll spend, or spend too much. (True, there is the fear of not seeing one’s own books but today I am ignoring that angst.)
I am not particular. I also buy from charity shops and bookstalls in hospital foyers and booksales at libraries too.
The upside is that I now have a house full of books.
But the downside is that I now have a house full of books.
Many of the shelves are double-parked. I have thought about getting rid of a few. The problem is that, apart from the matter of each named genre, I have an almost subconscious book classification system that makes clearing any out that bit more difficult.
For example, there are:
Books I’ve read and want to read again. (Or even again, again.)
Books, started, but not at the right moment for either of us.
Books, interesting: on subjects that might be useful or important to me one day.
Books, worthwhile but slightly dull: begun but now resting, for finishing one day.
Books, classics: that everyone has read. For reading – honestly - very soon.
Books, relics of ancient relatives: layers of guilt & sentiment attached.
Books, research: might still may be useful if ever I . . .(fill in blank).
Books, topic education: apparently superseded by tick sheets and laptops. Sigh.
Books, unread by favourite authors: suddenly spotted on shelves. (2nd copies poss.)
Books, holidays for the use of: not right o location and somehow not right since.
Books, unsought unsuitable review copies: lurid but attractive to woodlice and spiders.
Books, comforting, invalids for the use of: in case of long severe sniffles.
Books, hints, tips and analysis for writers: for reading when should be writing.
Books, diet: weighing as much or more as needs to be lost.
So many categories - and that’s only the beginning!
Then when I look round the shelves and floors and other flat surfaces considering just a little careful thinning out, there’s another problem. His books. My books. Our books. Books of contested ownership. Literally, a nightmare!
Now, suddenly, it’s simpler. There are e-books and kindles the size of a pocket. I see a new enticing title and the compact device whispers suggestive words. “It won’t take up any more space . . "
However, I’ve noticed newish kindle owners saying things like “Oh, the first thing I did was to download the whole of Dickens / the whole of Shakespeare / the whole of Tolstoy / the whole of anything" before gleefully adding “For free!”
I always want to ask, “Yes, but why did you do that? Do you normally read those books? Are those titles what you usually reach for when you want to read?” Or even “Great. How many of them have you read now?”
But then I noticed that all the Andrew Lang Fairy books ready for downloading to kindle. Yes, for free! Hmmm. Suddenly that pocket-sized kindle idea feels mightily dangerous.
I might end up with a home just as full of the books - problem still unsolved! – along with enormous quantities of virtual bookshelves. And I won’t even be able to see when they are double-parked.
Penny’s latest book is “A Boy Called M.O.U.S.E” (Bloomsbury)