Posts Tagged ‘buying books’

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.

The cull…

July 16, 2016

Yet another clear-out of several boxes of books!

It seems to be getting easier. Reference books are being culled ruthlessly; many are seriously out-of-date and I’d have replaced them long ago in the paper days; now they can go as I know where to find the information I want online. There’s still some sentimental attachment to seeing a familiar tome on the shelves, but it’s waning.

I’ve realised, too, I can part with a lot of the travel guides I’ve accumulated over the years; maps I still keep, as I know better than to rely totally on satnav, and, although I find the maps app on my phone helpful, it’s not often it can give you a big enough and clear enough overview of an unfamiliar town or city to enable you to avoid mistakes or long-cuts… But I can do so much of the homework I need to do before I set off, and travel lighter.

I’m able to be rather more ruthless with novels, too. Anything pre-1923 is available to download and read, so I only keep my best copies of favourite novels; the rest, particularly if I’m unsure whether I’ll read them again, can go. I’ve become a lot clearer about what I like and don’t like as I’ve grown older, which means I can decide pretty definitely whether I’m ever going to allocate more eyeball-time to re-reading a certain book or not. If not, off you go!

There was a time when having a library meant having books, and having them on display, as a way, I suppose, of reminding myself and others, that I’d read a particular book. Now my library is much more a ‘these I have loved’ project, and is therefore shrinking. I’m aiming for the day – haven’t reached it yet! – when I will go through my entire collection and select, deliberately, only those I definitely intend to keep, and will abandon the rest…

What is still difficult is to avoid buying more books. I have cut the number down that I buy each year from about seventy or so to about half this, but that’s not good enough. I don’t have enormous wish-lists like I used to; I feel that I’ve probably read ‘enough’ about certain subjects and so don’t need to buy the latest new book; I can avoid local bookshops and second-hand shops and even charity shops, but it’s harder when I’m away and am lured into thinking, ‘well, there could be something really exciting in here..’. Or when I pass through France and have to look to see if there’s anything that I know I’ll never come across back home.

Without being morbid, I do admit to myself that I have a limited amount of time left, and that there’s a lot of pleasure to be found in old certainties, which means re-reading those books that I’ve known and loved before, the old favourites, in the sure knowledge that I’m not going to be disappointed.

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