I need to let go of my books

I have a book crisis!

By that I mean I have too many books and not enough places to keep them.  It’s not that I’m a prodigious book collector. It’s just that I keep rather too many.   I do give books away to people or to the Charity Shops but people retaliate and the Charity Shops are particularly ruthless in encouraging me to buy from them.   

I am told that books are on their way out.  More e-books than print books are now being sold.  Technology is taking over.  A Kindle can hold thousands of e-books whilst my bookshelves can hold barely a hundred.  And this is why I have boxes of books in our garage, shed, cupboards and our home-office. I also have a pile of half read books laid on my bedside table, which may get substituted with other tempting books I received for Christmas which are cluttering up a magazine rack. (A year’s worth of reading for a slow reader like me.) I have books dating back to my youth, and some a lot older than that (including book shop purchases my father made – many of which are first editions and/or signed by the author).  I don’t want to give you the impression our house resembles a second had book shop, but for a neat freak like me, I find it stressful to uncover more books every time I go looking for something else entirely.  

What shall I read tonight?

The thing is, I don’t like reading from a tablet and I like the feel and look of a printed book.  I am not likely to keep e-books on any of my devices so I’ve got to make some serious decisions on which printed books to keep and which not to keep, for, as we know, hoarding is not good for you. 

It’s just knowing where to start that cleansing process. I can throw out all sorts of things in the interests of de-cluttering but I find it difficult to throw away books. Why? I suppose it’s because for me, some books have sentimental value – they are part of me and my history and they are a physical reminder of what pleasure they gave me when I read them.

I know my ‘clear out’ will involve sorting books into various untidy piles before I actually decide what to do with them but… a start must be made.

On a cursory inspection of the contents of some boxes, I realised that some books were loaned or given to me. So the first easy step would be to re-aquaint them with their owners – if they want them back.  If only I could remember who they were.  Mm, not a good start.

I then realised I had purchased books on a whim or a fancy thinking I might it read them someday and…. I still haven’t…. and neither am I likely to if I’m being honest.  Then there are those wonderful reference books that tell you everything you need to know about a subject and therefore you were bound to need it one day – but since 1980 you’ve only looked up one page of a heavy 400 page monster volume.  Why do I think I still need them when we have Google and YouTube?

Some of these have to go

I have biographies, books about photography, books about gardening, books on history, books on sport, books on travel, books on music and pop culture and I think they look good on the bookshelves.  From an aesthetic point of view, my wife would rather replace them with photos and homeware but I’d happily throw away many bits of homeware which I think is just clutter waiting to happen.

I am going to go with a compromise. 

I am reluctant to get rid of those books that I really enjoyed reading and may read again e.g. a Bill Bryson or a Bernard Cornwell or a P.G. Woodhouse for example.  But, I know if I want to re-read them, I could get them out of the library or buy them again.  Shouldn’t I just move on and make space for new books and new authors?

I do have some books though that I think are so special I should keep them so that I could lend them to everyone I know. But why? Whenever I try recommending a gem of a read, they say, “Nah, your’e OK, I don’t think its my cup of tea”.

I’ve catalogued my Dad’s ‘collectors’ collection which includes some interesting first editions by the likes of Enid Blyton, Laura Lee Hope (The Bobsy Twins), Alistair MacLean, Richard Gordon and some signed autobiographies. I’m not going to read them so I have contacted experts and book dealers to see if they were of any value.  They told me it’s a slow market at the moment and they already have large stocks which they can’t shift so they’re not interested.  Unhelpfully they say … “but don’t get rid of them”.

So, where am I up to?

I am in the process of carrying out a book beauty pageant to choose the best looking books and discard the ugly ones. I have kept the biographies of those who I admire rather than those who have a good story to tell. I have kept my photography, history and music related books. I have had a serious cull of my thriller, detective and historical novels (including, regretfully, Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe stories, the Saxon Stories and the Starbuck Chronicles).  I have also a growing pile of reference books and travel books to discard. I have not managed to acquaint any books with their previous owners. 

Some books have made it to the local Charity shops but more are in boxes ready to go when they decide they have room. Yes, its not always easy to give books away. I have dared to try and sell some books on-line and through book shops but it’s not worth the effort. In the past, I’ve tried selling books at car boot sales but I find that people speed past the book box to paw through phone chargers and other rubbish instead.

I have a small number of boxes left to sift through. Inevitably, a good number have and will continue to end up in the recycling bin. And that will probably be it for a year or two.  I will never be completely happy that I’ve got rid of my books or that I failed to get rid of many more . But it’s no longer a crisis!

I suppose I should start thinking about dealing with my ‘Vinyl albums and CDs crisis’.

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