Recently I started a project. A big project. A very big project.
In truth, it was probably just a project of bigger than normal size, but I have a tendency to turn projects into Projects.
I’m organizing, reviewing, and getting rid of some books.
“What’s the big deal about that?” Yes. You did ask that aloud.
Well, if you’re a person with a single bookshelf full of books, this doesn’t seem like a big project. However, if you’re a serious book lover you will have an idea of why this is such a Project.
To begin with, I have more than one bookshelf full of books. I’ve got many. Not just shelves neatly lined with books, like the shelves in a bookstore. No. My bookshelves house books that are not only standing end to end, as they would in the library, but, there are shelves full of paperback books, laying flat, stacked two deep. There are shelves of hardcovers laying flat, stacked, with more books standing in front of them. I’ve got stacks on the stacks. Sadly, I do not have enough shelf space, so I have a dozen or so boxes full as well.
You could almost say I was a book hoarder.
I have gotten rid of a few, from time to time.
My love of books is something that has been going on since I was old enough to read. There were always books around for me to read. I grew up reading Richard Scarry,
spent time with Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo,
and adored the blueberry pancake making Old Black Witch.
As I got older, my parents let me pick books from the Scholastic catalogue that the school sent home with us each year. I always got a stack of books. Then there was the stack of books that came home with me from the library. My library card was my proudest possession when I was a kid.
I know that I received my fair share of toys as presents for my birthday and Christmas, and I can picture the toys in the closet, in the toy box, or on the shelf, but, I’ve got few memories of actually playing with the toys. Mostly, my memories are of reading the books, tracing the pictures with my fingers, saying the words out loud.
It wasn’t until I was a teenager that my fondness for books turned into a passion. As a shy, awkward teen who was struggling with the loss of both a brother and a father, a mother who, once she’d grieved for the loss of half our family, turned her attention to building cabins in the mountain, and who was struggling with his sexuality, books became my retreat, my refuge, my school, my salvation. From the time I was about 15, until I was in my mid-30s, if I wasn’t working, or in school, or engaging in those basic things in life, I had a book in my hand. There was always at least one book I was in the middle of, often two or three books, since I have this burning need to read and know everything there is to know (yes, I do realize this is impossible).
Once I read a book, it becomes a part of me; the words of the story have gone from the page to my brain, so I feel as if the book is now a part of my being, and have a tough time parting with the book. Over the years, as space has become an issue, I’ve learned to let go of the books I’d never read again. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve really been able to get rid of books that I probably won’t ever read.
Oh. I haven’t mentioned that part yet. Besides keeping them forever, I cannot stop buying books either. If I see a book I am interested in, I have to buy it, because, I’ve learned from experience that one might not find the book again, either because the title was forgotten, or it went out of print as quickly as it came into print. At one time, back in the days before ebooks, I could easily spend a several hundred dollars a month on books. Used book stores are like an opium den for me: if I enter one, it’s going to be a long time before I come out again. Add to my addiction the fact that I worked for 10 of the past 20-some years in a bookstore. Most people work at bookstores for a single reason: discounted and free books.
The one welcomed aspect of my book buying obsession has been the advent of ebooks. Don’t get me wrong — I much prefer a physical copy of a book. The smell, the feel, the sound the pages make as they turn: intoxicating! An ebook has little sensory appeal. They do, however, have other appealing aspects for a passionate book freak: the cost is a bit less, and they take up no room at all. This is good for when I travel, because, before e-readers, I often had a carryon full of books. Even for a weekend trip. One can never be sure what one’s mood is going to be like, so one must have books for all moods. My Kindle takes up so little room, and I’ve got all the books I own, plus access to another million or more, available at the touch of a button. It may take me many years to get ebook versions of all the books I currently own (money, you understand), but, someday I will. You have no idea how orgasmic I find the thought of being able to carry my entire library around with me, everywhere I go. It would be like a family outing, in a good way.
On a side note: one other brilliant aspect of ebooks is that I do not have to dust them, or dust the shelves they’re on. Dusting is not my friend.
Part of my current Project has been getting rid of the physical copies of books I now own as an ebook. Then comes the weeding out of books I don’t think I’ll read. I went through a spy/thriller novel phase for awhile, back during the Cold War, and I bought many, many spy novels. Sadly, some books just don’t stand the test of time. I can read historical fiction, and be transported back in time with no problem. In spy novels, that mental journey back in time is much tougher for me. I cannot feel the suspense when a spy is running around, trying to find a phone in order to call home. So, those have been making the journey from my shelf to the “To Go” pile. And, I’ve been making a list as I go along, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. This, of course, has made the project bigger, and longer.
There is some good news: I’ve made it through all the mass-market paperback books, the ones on the shelves and in the boxes. There are now no boxes full of mass-markets. All that’s left in boxes are trade-paperback, and hardcover books. I’m starting on those tomorrow.
Also, I’ve learned one interesting thing: even with all the books being gotten rid of, I still possess 761 mass-market paperback books.
I’ll let you know the final count, once I get through the rest.