Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fail! Grade F for Lust for Books

I Still Lust for Books

By Christine Clark

Deceptive photo--I have three more bookcases to purge.

Purging books is difficult. I consider many books my companion, my way to avoid the noises that go bump in the night, my source of humor, my source of knowledge. I have a friend who never, ever gets rid of books. I’m closer to her in my book hoarding than I thought.
The imminent arrival of company meant I could procrastinate no longer. I had to clear the sofa of the books. I got out my “criteria for keeping” list and asked myself each question:
Do I love it? I love far too many of my books. I revisit my favorite authors and reread their books: Margaret Atwood, Isabel Allende, Barbara Kingsolver, Bailey White, John Steinbeck, J. California Cooper, Silas House, Charles Dickens... Books by those authors will always have a home on my shelves.
Do I want to read it? This was tough. Books I want to read are on the bottom shelf. I scanned those one day for beach reading. “No, I don’t want to read that. No, I don’t want to read that. No… Hmmm? And why did I keep these books?” The Dante Club and a few others went into the give-away box.
Do I want to read it again? The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, Mama Makes Up Her Mind, The Poisonwood Bible, 100 Years of Solitude, The Grapes of Wrath, Bel Canto, A Parchment of Leaves, yes, yes, and yes, maybe too many times yes.
I was smart enough to get rid of
Camping for Dummies.
Do I want to share it? Every book in the preceding paragraph and more. Yes. To be honest, my sharing is also a problem. Confession: If I see a book for sale and it’s one I really love, such as Cold Mountain, The Poisonwood Bible, Bel Canto, Mama Makes Up Her Mind, The Handmaid’s Tale, I buy a copy to give to someone else I think would enjoy reading it. Why get an extra copy? I don’t want my most-treasured books to leave the house—serious hoarding issue.
Is it a reference or a textbook I need? Animal,Vegetable, Miracle, yes. In Defense of Food, yes. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, yes, English Grammar, Language As Human Behavior, yes. The Norton Anthology of American Literature (three volumes), yes.
Am I saving it for my children or grandchildren? Yes. I have a shelf of children’s books.
Does the book represent a memory I’m not ready to release? A battered pamphlet sits on the shelf. My daughter found it shortly after her sister died in 1986. I keep it because it’s a Christmas story of hope. We needed hope at that dreary time.
Can I get the book at a library? Yes, but that doesn’t mean I will get rid of a book just because I can find it somewhere else. I can’t write in library books or turn down corners or savor them for weeks or even months at a time. Well, I can, but a fine is involved for that “weeks or even months at a time” choice.
Yes, this is a Rolling Stone from January 2008.
Most women I know understand why this is a keeper.
Fail is my book-purging grade. I gave away only about 25 books. It’s a beginning, though. I’m trying to go easy and not judge myself too harshly about book hoarding. At least I have made one resolution: I won’t bring any more books into the house—even if it’s an “extra” I want someone else to read. I don’t even need to go to the library to get any books… I have plenty to read right here at home.

       Do you suffer from book lust? Would my criteria help you purge your books? Have you successfully conquered book lust (a.k.a book hoarding)? Should we even try to release our books? Please share your successes (or failures) in the comments section.

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