Too many books?

April 14, 2014

Increasingly, I’m feeling I have too many books. Before you begin wondering about the state of my mental health, I’ll try and explain why. First, some facts. My spreadsheet tells me I have 2373 books in my library; the accession number is 3640, so over my lifetime I’ve disposed of about 1300 items… which was a bit of a shock, when I realised. These books take up a lot of room, several rooms, in fact. And they weigh a ton…literally.

Why keep a book?

Because I bought it, is the obvious answer.

Because I want to read it, one day…

Because I read it and enjoyed it, and want to read it again (perhaps) haha! But how to decide what to re-read, when there are so many unread books? If they weren’t there nagging me, would I bother?

Because I read it, enjoyed it, and will definitely re-read it… probably have, several times already. Think Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Joseph Conrad, Umberto Eco, Josef Skvorecky and others, in no particular order.

Why get rid of a book?

Because I have several copies of the same book. Increasingly, I buy something by mistake, that I already have. But also, over the years, I have accumulated different editions of books I particularly like: nice copies of Jane Austen for my library, a much more portable edition to take away for holiday reading. Library and study copies of some books. Excuses!

Because I didn’t particularly like it. Actually, I’m not bad at getting rid of these.

Because it’s out of date: reference books, critical works and the like.

Because I’ll never read it again… time is short, and I see books on the shelves that say ‘you enjoyed me once’, but I know I haven’t the eyeball time to spend.

Because lots of books are now available as free downloads. This ought to make it easier, though the poor quality of downloads and the way that formatting sometimes goes all over the place on e-readers puts me off, as does the fact that I often have nice editions of classics.

So, there are a lot of books that I could get rid of. It’s rare that one can get very much for secondhand books as there are so many of them on offer all over the place, so the money spent is put down to entertainment and pleasure at some time in the past, and the books go to some charitable cause. And yet, I find it harder than getting rid of CDs, DVDs, old gadgets and general stuff… in the end, my library is part of my identity; it says who I am and how I got here, and reducing it in size is a bit like amputation (OK, OTT image, perhaps) getting rid of a part of myself.

My library defines me, so I keep it. Don’t ask to come and see it, you’ll think I’m very weird.

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