It seems like all I do these days is Bits and Bobs posts. Some swirl of being busy and being lazy has kept me from anything more ambitious. But then, if you are like me, you prefer bookish gossip to most other forms of book blogging anyway, so maybe there is nothing...
(a) ...about which I should feel bad
(b) ...to feel bad about.
Is (b) really wrong?
Wouldn't you agree that 99% of us would finish our sentences that way? Is (a) betterer (sic)?
Last year I read like a champion, finishing 111 books when all was said and done. This year is off to a much slower start. I finally finished my first book of 2014 last night (Brookner's Family and Friends). Granted, I have two other books in progress at the same time (Middlemarch, and Mitford's Don't Tell Alfred), but still, this doesn't bode well. I have certainly been preoccupied, nay busy, with our house renovation. Not only have I been working on contractor negotiations, sub-contractor visits, and getting the financing all lined up, but I have also been busy packing up our belongings ahead of our temporary move.
A library of Sophie's choices (but oddly no Sophie's Choice)
One of the biggest challenges in packing up the house has been dealing with all of our books. I am determined to squeeze all of our stuff into our two-bedroom rental. This means that all of my books except for my extensive TBR pile (see picture below) will be tucked away in boxes and hidden in closets. So even though our temporary quarters has tons of closet space, it still seemed like a very good time to weed the collection.
|The once packed shelves looking considerably diminished.|
|Some of the boxes of books that will remain in hiding for almost a year.|
The books still on the shelves next to the fireplace represent the books in TBR that I will have access to. Everything I will read in the next eleven months is on those shelves.
|Vintage Leontyne waiting for her spin on the turntable.|
As the available book boxes filled up, I made remarkably little process emptying the shelves. It was the bookish equivalent of Willa Wonka's everlasting gobstopper. So I began to get aggressive with my book cull. So far about 12 shopping bags of books have been donated to the Friends of the Library. A good thing, I know, but some of them were hard to let go. Especially as I contemplated the volunteers not knowing that they had treasures in their hands. I began putting sticky notes on some of the more esoteric books that I thought needed a little explaining so they didn't get tossed in the pulp pile just because they were old and unknown. And then came the collections and sets...
A conversion on the road to Hay-on-Wye
(If Saul became Paul, will I become Rhomas?) As I ruthlessly tossed out old friends and asked the hard questions about what to keep, I tried not to notice the various collections and sets that were tucked away here and there. These were books that I just had to have. Some combination of bibliophilia and the need to shop. Books that I was quite sure I would never read, but I felt the need to possess them. Beautiful covers, numbered spines, editions that were limited, collectors, or special. What to do, what to do? I have noted before that I much prefer reading copies of books over other more special editions. Ratty old paperbacks please me far more than the shiniest or rarest hardcovers. And I had already decided some months ago that I really didn't need four HC editions of Oryx and Crake (one Canadian first, one US first, and two UK firsts). So it seemed time to not only cull the collection of collections, but it also made me realize I was a bit foolish to buy them in the first place. I know I got pleasure out of them for a while, and if our house was nothing but room after room of books, I might have continued to get pleasure out of them, but I certainly wasn't like to read many of them. So I think my days of buying a book just because I want to possess it are over. Unless I am truly intent on reading something, it just doesn't make much sense to me to keep buying books as objects.
Some of the casualties
Some collectible books may indeed have some monetary value, but unless you are willing to sit on them for months or years while you try to sell them online, it is highly unlikely that you get much of anything for them. Most shops that are buying books pay next to nothing. I am not sure what a typical mark-up is in the antiques trade, but in used books it seems to be somewhere in the 1000% range. So handing something over for 50 cents in store credit doesn't really feel so good. And selling on e-bay is not much better. Giving them away to charity can make one feel good but I think, as I mention above, that many of those books can end up pulped because they are too old and esoteric for the charity to bother with them. It was in doing this math, and realizing that even giving books away can be difficult that helped push me toward my no collecting conversion. I know many of you would love to possess some of my cast-offs, but you all live a million miles away and postage is a bitch.
|I ran around London collecting all 100 of the Penguin Great Ideas series seen on the top shelf.|
|I had so much fun collecting these wonderful old Signet Classics. They have lovely, fun, interesting covers, but really ugly spines. I found a former lit major in my neighborhood who is now the proud owner of these 60 volumes.|
Well it isn't really a book, but it looks a bit like a book. And they aren't pages so much...yes, even my collection of 100 Penguin postcards was culled. It is true, I could easily have kept this volume on my shelf for ages and it wouldn't have bothered me one bit. But I began thinking about my post late last year about letters and such. And I know many bloggers over the years have bemoaned the lost art of letter writing. And then an idea began forming in my head. But no, could I really give them up? But yes, that would be quite fun. What to do? So I took the plunge. I emptied out the lovely book-like box that the postcards came in and shipped it to another blogger with just one postcard inside with the note "Keep. This. Box." written on the back. I think you can figure out what is going to happen at least 99 times.
Whatever sadness I feel at giving up this treasured possession is ameliorated by the fun I am having writing postcards to Amanda. And I know that she will enjoy the cards not only as fun, bookish surprises showing up from time to time in her mailbox but also as pieces of correspondence. One of the added benefits is that I keep the stack of postcards on my desk and find I am getting more pleasure looking at whatever card is on top of the pile at the moment, than I would have if they stayed tucked away in their box. Thankfully I don't have to write all 100 postcards at once.
|Amanda's picture of the box and first of 100 postcards to make its way from DC to Georgia.|
|The rest of the cards providing visual interest on my desk while they wait their turn.|