Posts Tagged ‘books’

Too many books! (again)

November 11, 2022

I’ve written about my problem before; since then, before moving house a few months back, I sold or donated to charity several hundred volumes I knew I’d not need again, that I’d never want to re-read, or that had been sitting in boxes in the loft for years.

This time, there’s another issue to mention: I keep reading book reviews and thinking, “there’s a book I must read!’ The problem here is lack of time, as well as lack of physical space for all those potential new acquisitions. Will I actually ever get round to reading that must-read book, or will the moment pass and my attention move on, leaving another book to gather dust on the waiting-to-be-read shelf? That shelf, incidentally, is probably two metres long. I have got better over the last couple of years at resisting temptation, and reached the stage where purchases have dwindled to less than two a month on average, but the built-up mental pressure of the backlog of books I really want to read is increasing. This is then compounded by the books physically on the shelves which call to me for a re-reading; I have been tackling a reasonable number of those recently, on the grounds that once I’ve re-read them, they’re probably surplus to requirements and so can safely be disposed of. Re-reading inevitably brings new discoveries, and revives old interests…

But then there’s the thing I have about loving to be surrounded by books, having a library of old favourites and good friends, as it were, that I can’t bear to part with. This leaves me feeling guilty about the problem I leave my eventual heirs: what the hell to do with all those cubic metres of paper?

As has always happened, any interesting reading opens potential new paths to follow, that I’d really like to pursue: again, realistically there’s so little time I feel I must be brutal; mentally I make a list and occasionally joke about saving those books for my next existence…

And then, there are the books I very occasionally think about writing myself. In my student days I imagined writing science fiction, and doubtless somewhere are the pieces of paper with ideas scratched and scribbled on them in drunken and stoned moments so very long ago. There is a dissertation, and also a thesis, from a couple of my research degrees, and there are two or three study guides for A Level students penned during my retirement years, the royalties from which I count as my whisky money, but there’s nothing of great moment there. Words, words, words, as someone once said. And they are swamping me. But I love them.

On feeling oppressed by books…

April 19, 2021

I glanced sideways at my bookshelves recently and caught a glimpse of a title and author, realised that, yes, I’d read and enjoyed that book perhaps ten or twenty years ago and now I didn’t have a clue what it was about, or any desire to read it again to remind myself. And this got me thinking about books that we read and go back to because they leave a permanent and lasting impression, and the books like that one, that sit there, not even reproachfully, until they are bundled off to a charity shop…Partly, I’m a hoarder and I’ve always loved having a large library, so I’m reluctant to dispose of books, although I have found it easier in the last few years.

I’ll buy a book (and normally read it straightaway) if it’s a really interesting recommendation from someone whose tastes I share, if I come across a good review, or if it crops up in my research on something I’m interested in at a specific moment. But then I move on.

I can’t apologise for constant references to getting older in my posts as it’s something I’m increasingly aware of at the moment, I’m sure heightened by all the necessary changes in my life and routines that COVID-19 has brought about. But I have found myself thinking about my library with the fact of ageing in the background.

I used to enjoy having a large library and being surrounded by books; now I’m finding this more than a little oppressive. When I was younger, I could look at all the books – I reached about 3000 at the peak library point – and think yes, someday I will want to get around to re-reading that/ those. This, obviously, is no longer the case, and I have weeded out many hundreds of books over the past few years that I know I have grown past, if you get my meaning, and that I will never want to read again, or waste eyeball time on, as I usually put it.

I still buy books, although far fewer than I used to, and buy them accepting that I’m only likely to read them once, now, because there’s so little time… there’s still the same great pleasure in buying and reading a new book, however. There is – fortunately – the money to have whatever takes my fancy. And having read a book I usually know pretty clearly whether there’s any point in keeping it, or whether the discipline of disposing of it already will be good for me.

And the library has been shrinking to encompass those particular favourites I know I will want to return to as long as I am able. Somewhere there is a list I have been drawing up of those books I absolutely must keep; there are many of the usual suspects on this list, as well as some surprises. One day, I’ll write about that vital list of books I am deliberately choosing to keep because I intend to re-read them and I (probably) have the time. I can already feel a certain sense of liberation in that.

Confessions of a serial book abuser

June 6, 2015

While I was sorting out books to dispose of recently, I was a little shocked by the condition of some of them, and by what I had done to them.

I’ll start by saying that I know there are people who like to keep books in pristine condition. It isn’t possible, and it doesn’t work. I know, because I sometimes turn to a book I bought twenty years ago and have yet to read, and it has inevitably degraded over time: colours of the cover and spine fade, the glue weakens or crumbles, the paper goes brown or spotty.

I’ve always felt my books are mine to do what I like with. Mainly I read them, but they do get used – some would say abused. Over the years, for instance, I’ve got better at using bookmarks, but if I don’t have one to hand, then I will fold over the corner of the page… I have always written my name and the date I acquired a book on the flyleaf. This never did stop me lending and then losing books, so now I often use a post-it note instead, especially if a book has nice endpapers.

I log when I read a book – just the date, on the back flyleaf. Useful information, shocking at times.

I suppose my worst offence in the eyes of many will be the fact that I annotate some of the books I read. Mitigating circumstances: I’m not as bad as I was when a student, when every book was annotated and usually in ballpoint pen! This, of course, eventually meant they were unsaleable, and some of the books in the recent cull went to the recycling bin rather than the charity sale because of this. But I still annotate, though now I use 2B pencil, and jot ideas down on the back flyleaf rather than throughout the text, so that theoretically I can clean up the book. And yes, I get furious if I buy a secondhand book that contains someone else’s marginalia, though this is usually because some internet seller has described a book incorrectly and I’ve bought someone else’s annotations unawares.

I don’t feel guilty about any of this: the book is mine, I read it, think about what the writer has to say, interact with her/him, and learn… what I am more concerned about is my magpie habit, that I must keep every book, rather than moving it on to another home after I’ve done with it. However, I’m working on that. There is a kind of secondhand bookshop – if you’ve been in one, you’ll recognise the type – where your heart sinks as you look at rows and rows of hundreds of mouldering, ancient books and you think, these all need throwing in a skip… I don’t want a library like that.

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