Friday, February 15, 2008


I've decided to weed my books. There's just not enough room.

There is various shelving around the house, for the kid's books, for cookbooks, for colouring books, for board games, for dictionaries and the atlas. But 4 bookcases are mine, and they're bursting at the seams. More bookcases is not an option.

For this reason mainly, as well as a few others, I'm ready to go digital. (Not tomorrow, but I'm preparing.)

Books by some authors I will not part with, such as Calvino, Saramago.

I have duplicates of Douglas Adams, and of 1984. I don't think I will ever read Anna Karenina again; if I do, it will be in a different translation. I'm keeping Bridget Jones's Diary, but not the sequel.

I'm taking each book off the shelf and carefully weighing its worth before sliding it back into position. I am formulating criteria:

Will I ever read this book again?

Really, that one question ought to do it.

The discards are accumulating. But.

But this hoarding of books is an unreasonable compulsion, and it's a tough habit to break. I find excuses.

Did this book have a significant impact on me?
Will I ever have reason to refer to it?
Do I have a strong sentimental attachment to this particular physical specimen (for my notes, an inscription, a memory)?
Is it a book that is exceptionally hard to find?
Is it a book likely to fall out of print and not be digitized? (I will keep the Delacorta books.)
Will I regret having disposed of it?
Should I keep it for Helena's sake, to tempt her, to guide her literary discoveries?

I discarded The Children of Men, but then I created an exception for all books fitting the category of u-/dys-topian fiction (if anything's my thing, that's it), so I pulled it back.

There's the broad category of, umm, "esoterica" — for lack of a more precise, overarching label — (Schulz and Gombrowicz; Breton and Appolinaire; Perec and Pavic), some samples of which fit my criteria, others not quite.

I don't know what to do about The Martian Chronicles — I bought this paperback at a garage sale for 50 cents, after having spent weeks looking for a copy, overwhelmed with the need to reread it, having no idea whatever happened to my own. If I put this copy in the box, will I be able to find it at a garage sale when I need it?

And, seriously, what of the impact on the child? I did not grow up in a home with shelves of books. I relied on libraries and instinct and gifts for literary guidance. For better, or worse? Do I keep Dracula, Frankenstein, Ayn Rand (oh, come on — every adolescent goes through an Ayn Rand phase) just so the kid might "discover" them earlier? Or would she then snub them as her mother's books? If I dispose of them, will they be out there for her when she's ready for them, will she be able to find them, will she know that they exist?

I used to imagine I'd grow up and have a house with library. But life happens, and I'm letting go.


Pearl said...

Parting with books is hard. I thought book mooch might make it easier. Book into hands that want them and all...

SFP said...

I'm trying to curtail my buying this year--everything's double stacked and no new shelves on the horizon--and I really ought to do some weeding. But I always talk myself into holding on to books--maybe the kids, or their kids, will need it someday. . .

Bybee said...

I feel so much pain here.

Tried to weed today...took a book to the bookstore for exchange. Left with 2. sigh...