Any book lover will know that there is nothing better than getting your hands on a new book. It might be the latest novel from your favourite author, the book that everyone is talking about or a newly discovered gem from a charity or second hand book shop. Adding it to the book case or to the toppling TBR pile it soon becomes part of the furniture (unless it’s a library book of course, otherwise you’ll also be adding to huge return fine to the collection). It might be read immediately, or else sit languishing in its place until the mood takes you and that is the book you must read.
Then there is what to do with the book once it’s read. Some of us will simply put it away, back on the shelf, or onto a shelf containing books that have been read. If that’s full it might go in a box under the bed, and when there’s no more space under the bed, into the garage, or wardrobe or any small nook or cranny. There are those of us who will simply drop it off at their local charity shop or donate them to friends or relatives. For the thing I’ve noticed about readers, we are either cullers or keepers.
Since I started blogging the amount of books entering the house has increased quite dramatically. I’m lucky enough to sometimes receive advance copies, which I am always grateful for and never expect to receive. I very rarely request a book so any books I do receive tend to be surprises that I make space for on the shelves. Then of course there are the books I buy myself. And yes, even though I do receive copies from publishers I still buy books. I have my favourite authors whose books I always have to buy. I see books talked about on social media and covet a copy so buy it when I see it, there are those books I need that I have to buy, in addition to those I just want. I trawl charity shops and local bookshops to see what catches my eye, and I’ll buy a book just in case I might want to read it one day – the fear still there that I may run out of things to read. And after all, authors don’t write books just for the love of the written word. For many this is their only income so by buying books I help in my own way. And I can even do this by borrowing from a library as an author receives a small royalty every time one of their books is borrowed.
Until very recently that flow of books was one way. My house is very much the Hotel California for books, they can check in but never leave. I would occasionally part with one, lend them to people who would even less frequently, never return them. There may be some where I had accumulated more than one copy, so those I would pass on.
I admire those who can easily shed themselves of a book once it’s fulfilled its purpose. It has entertained for those few hours or days and now is to be moved on, passed on to someone else to discover and enjoy. There is something freeing about not having the old overtaking the new, and of course ebook readers never have to worry about the possibility of being killed by their toppling book collection.
However it began to dawn on me that I may have too many books (no there is no such thing and yes I have known for a long time that I have many, many years worth of books dotted around the house). My husband had kindly surprised me with a reading room. After turfing the kids out of their playroom (for playroom read toy dumping ground and to be fair they play in every other part of the house other than that room…), he chose me a lovely new carpet, and furnished it with a beautiful desk and, the best bit, a wonderful set of double shelves. Now came the fun part, filling those shelves. There I was happily day dreaming that the books I currently have would fill perhaps three quarters of the space and that I’d have room to grow the collection. It soon became apparent that I would need much more than the reading room could hold. So then it was decided that the wardrobes in the spare bedroom could turn into bookcases (I manage with fewer clothes, but fewer books, never). It was all planned, I’d be able to rescue the books under the bed and those languishing in the garage – checking for spiders obviously before I moved them into their new home. So the great move began. And it seemed to be going well. I started a shelf for unread books and one for read novels. Then I had to expand both, so some were sorted into fiction, non-fiction and classics. Then, alphabetised. Then they started to be double shelved. Then just thrown on where any random space could be found. And still there was about half left to be moved from the garage.
(The reading room – this picture is now very out of date as those shelves are not so neatly packed – it’s more like book jenga at the moment)
I could avoid it no longer. A cull was inevitable. But how was I to choose? Yes I may have had that copy of Tara Road for approximately 10 years and still no read it but how knew when I might have a Maeve Binchy emergency. I know I may have stopped reading the Scarpetta series a gazillion years ago but those battered paperbacks might be worth some money. But away they must go.
I had already rediscovered books I’d forgot I had. Some of these I of course wanted to read immediately. Others I soon realised I probably never would read, especially as I couldn’t even remember how long I had them.) Some I had read but kept in case I would ever read them again. I realised I probably never would, even if I did manage to read every single unread book I owned. So into the clear out bag they went (after of course, checking on the internet that they weren’t actually super rare and therefore super expensive first editions).
After much deliberation I managed to cull around 40 books, no mean feat for a first time culler like me. Feeling rather pleased with myself I popped them all in a large bag and moved them firstly downstairs, then into my car to be dropped off at the charity shop. There they remained for many weeks until I brought them back into the house again after I had to empty the boot of the car. Then after complaints that putting them in a bag for people to trip up over was not technically getting rid of the books I did what any normal adult would do – gave them to my mum. Who said she would take them to the charity shop – after she’d had a look through the bag first of course…
(parting is such sweet sorry…)
So I have now made the transition from keeper to culler. I know it’s not painful, I know I’ve forgotten half of the books I’ve given away already which just proves that I was probably never going to read them. And I know I can always buy the book again or borrow it from the library if I really do ever want to read one of them. Now I just need to tackle the rest of the books in crates in the garage. And I should probably make a stab at culling the ones I’ve crammed onto the shelves, if they aren’t packed in too tight that is….