My bookshelves are filled. Again. And I’ve bought more books. I have a book habit. And some of the new books I’ve read, I want to keep. So it’s time to do my once a year shelf cleaning that shouldn’t take lots of time, but always does, because it’s hard to part with old favorites to make way for new favorites. Books aren’t just about reading, for me, they’re about emotional attachment, too. But I’ve made a firm rule for myself. If a book doesn’t fit on my shelves, I pass it along to someone else.
I have a friend who just keeps buying more and more bookshelves to hold her collections. If I were better at dusting, that might be an option, but since I avoid it as long as possible, I know better than to think I’ll dust more. Besides, I rarely reread books, so I’m only keeping them because they touched me and when I look at them, they bring back memories of what they store between their covers. I grow attached to them, to the characters who walked their pages, and I want to keep them in my life. Books in my Kindle are different. I’ve actually loved some of them more than books I’ve held in my hands, but I don’t get the same emotional attachment when I stare at their covers on my Kindle screen.
My husband rarely buys a book, but he visits the library every week. He flies through novels while I’m savoring only one. The only books he saves are tomes on famous historical figures, so that he can recheck his facts. I can’t say that the books I save are because they’re especially well-written or deep or pithy. I save them because they touched me somehow. One of the oldest books I have was once my mother’s–BETTY ZANE, by Zane Grey. She loaned it to me, and when I told her how much I loved it, she told me to keep it; it was mine. Now that Mom’s gone, I love that book because it moved me and because it reminds me of Mom.
Different books on my shelves remind me of different periods in my life. I read Nancy Pickard’s mysteries when I was trying to sell cozies and our girls were finishing grade school and middle school. My daughter Holly read every cozy that I wrote and would stay up late at night with me to watch English mysteries that I’d recorded on PBS. My daughter Robyn loved me, but not mysteries. I stayed up with her to watch comedies and Weird Al Yankovich music videos. I have two shelves that hold all of Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series and Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson novels. I read those when I was writing urban fantasy and my grandsons lived with us, and I read chapters of Harry Potter to them every night. I have an entire shelf of Elizabeth George novels because…well, to me, Elizabeth George is a goddess of literary mystery writers. I have 3/4 of a shelf of Martha Grimes, too. And then are cookbooks. Don’t ask. And a shelf full of books written by the people in my writers’ group.
I have several shelves full of books that I just thought stood head and shoulders above the rest for writing and plotting and pacing. So…how to choose? But choose, I must. We’ve been in this house a long time, and it’s full of things we love, but my hub and I both hate clutter. If something new comes in, something has to go to make room for it. Sigh. This is going to be a tough week. I hope, when I pass the books I have to part with along, someone else loves them as much as I did.
8 thoughts on “Paring Down”
Giving up books is so hard. I got rid of most of mine a few years ago, donating them to the library and a local nursing home. Now I’m down to those special favorites (like you) and new books I’ve bought that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. I will re-read a book (often more than once) if I really love it. Others I’ve kept because I loved the characters too much to part with them. And then there is my non-fiction collection. I think it’s hard to part with those because the subjects intrigue me so, but looking at my bookcase just now, I do think I should do another weed through. So dreadfully, dreadfully hard!
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If you have to give up some, I feel for you:)
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There are some books on the shelf that will never leave, the Austens, my sister’s works, and many research books that I use every day. Then there is the pile that I have waiting to be read, but the truth is, I need books around me, shelved, stacked, or shoved under the bed. They are a comfort and a blessing like the walls covered in family pictures.
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Love your comment. Books ARE a comfort. When I walk into my office, it lifts my mood.
I loved your post. I have reached that point, too, where I HAVE to get ride of some books. The last time I ran out of space, my husband built me a shelf in my office closet, but even that’s full, and I have no room for another shelf. I usually give books to the Friends of the Library for their used book store at the library, and the Florida SCBWI’s Mid-Year Workshop is collecting kids’ books to give to local schools. Now I just have to decide which children’s, Middle Grade, or YA novels I can part with. Books become friends and it’s hard to let go.
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You give the books to worthy programs. That way, they can inspire someone else, but boy, it’s hard to part with them. Good luck! It feels good passing books along to kids.
Zane Grey also was one on my favorite authors! Nothing like a good Western! It’s hard to choose which books to take off the shelf, so I wish you sympathy and luck!