Monday, October 02, 2006

Yes, You Can Have Too Many Books

And I do, I’ve decided. It’s time to cull them. I have three bookcases in my bedroom, each of my kids has at least one shelf at least five feet long, filled with books in each of their rooms, and then there’s this:

8 shelves high, 8 units wide, a total of twenty-four feet wide. It’s one entire wall in my den. I have a non-fiction section with gardening, medical reference, knitting, general reference, foreign languages, humor, and various special interest books. Then there’s the “kid” section, for those books the children have outgrown but can’t quite let go of. There’s a “classics” section – Shakespeare, poetry, enduring works of fiction. The rest are mainly fiction, and a good many of them are paperback.

The books upstairs are mainly old college texts and (gasp) romances. The scary part about that is, we still use some of my old college texts for reference, and I didn’t start collecting romances until about 5 years ago. Urk. There’s an even more boring story attached to that, which I’ll save for some poor soul with the misfortune to get stuck sitting next to me in the old folk’s home in a couple of decades.

But, back to the den and the Wall O’ Words – when I first started collecting books, I was a young teenager with a huge interest in science fiction. That’s when I started my collections of Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Anne McCaffrey, C.J. Cherryh, Poul Anderson, etc. Then I developed a taste for cozy cottage mysteries, resulting in a full set of Agatha Christies, some A.C. Doyle and later M. C. Beaton, along with a few others. Somewhere along the way, when cottage mysteries were hard to find, I started picking up suspense and horror books, the largest components of which are by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and R. Walker.

About 10 years ago slapstick mysteries written by women hit the market in a big way, so I added Janet Evanovich, Sarah Strohmeyer, the wonderful Charlotte MacLeod, Dorothy Gilman, Elizabeth Peters, and even, in very serious moments, Patricia Cornwell. Dorothy Cannell and Anne B. Ross joined the ranks, too. Then, mysteries by women authors became even more specialized, so I picked up a few with knitting, cooking, gardening, nuns, B&B innkeepers, and female professors and students (campus mysteries) as their themes.

In fact, I can’t possibly name all the genres and authors in my main library in the den. It would take me all day, and none of us wants to go through that! But, this weekend, as I was tidying up the main area of the den, organizing my knitting needles and adding new or newly discovered patterns to the appropriate binders, I looked at my library and realized it’s too big. I have read all of the books, a fact which staggers most people, particularly if I add the fact that I have read most of them several times, and I spend plenty of time reading books I’ve checked out from the library, too. I read the novels the kids bring home, if asked. And, of course, there are more upstairs.

It’s never “too much” to read, whatever and whenever and wherever I please. It is too much to keep all of these around, storing them for another “someday.” Someone else can get some entertainment or enlightenment from the ones I can part with, and so I’m hoping to start sending out boxes of used books before Christmas. My real overall goal is to diminish my Wall O’Books to the point where I can bring my Wall O’ Yarn downstairs to the den and have all my favorite things in one room. The Wall O’Yarn is also on the decline, as I inventory it and knit a boxful of things for charitable donations at a time. With luck and diligence, I’ll be able to bring them both down to a size my conscience thinks is just right within 18 months or so, but I’ll give myself a good two years, since both reading and knitting – which I do at the same time quite often – take time.

A group I belong to can handle some books, but I also found this site online:

Chicago Books to Women in Prison

If you have any experience in dealing with this organization, I’d like to hear about it.

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