Where Did All These Books Come From?


The weekend before last turned into a huge cleanup weekend.  It all started when my husband decided to straighten up his side of our bedroom.  In our younger days, we both worked in the book business, which meant we brought home books all the time.  ARCs that at the time we fought tooth and nail to get our hands on, hardcovers we’d gleefully plucked from the boxes before the stock was even shelved, shiny bargain books, you name it.  They all came home, and stayed.  Having a child just made things worse, since now we were buying books for him, too.  We both have bookshelf night stands, and there’s a floor to ceiling bookshelf on one wall, but somehow we’d ended up with stacks of books on the floor on Todd’s side of the room, gathering dust.  Dust is the great enemy of the allergic among us, so we determined that some of the books needed to go.  We packed up three grocery bags of books, but in the doing, uncovered more books that could no longer live in our house.  We ended up cleaning the whole room, including the space under the bed.  (Have you looked under your bed lately?  I found books I’d forgotten I ever bought!  It was like a treasure cave.  A dusty, dusty treasure cave.)  When we were finished, we were covered in dust, but the room was tidy, the only thing under the bed was luggage and we had nine bags of books to take away from the house.  The hardest part was choosing which books to keep and which to let go.

I don’t know about you, but I feel most comfortable in a house full of books.  Have you ever visited someone whose books, if they own any, are hidden away from view?  It creeps me out.  A house with no books in it has a weird lack of personality – it’s as if the place doesn’t actually belong to a real person, as if it’s a model house or something.  I like to see what you read, even if it’s not what I like.  So when I had to clean off my bookcases, I had to take care to keep the books that I’d read again someday, the ones that defined me.  Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stayed, alongside Fitz and FalcoThe Luck of Welch County and the King’s Tramp and Tarod the Chaos Lord stayed right in their places, where I could see them and remember the joy their stories brought me.  The Tim Powers shelf has become a crowded place, and I realized that the next time he releases a book, I might have to rearrange the whole bookcase just to make room.  Not that the idea bothers me at all, because I love those stories, too.  I do feel that the books I chose to keep define me.  I don’t know if anyone else would see me in the titles I picked, but when I look at my bookshelf, it’s something like a collage of words, a history of reading that reminds me where my joy came from.  What I write is, in my heart, a direct reflection of what I read all those years.

Everything couldn’t stay, I knew that.  Like friends, some books come into your life for a moment, some for a lifetime.  So even though it was hard to let them go, I bid the books that didn’t stay a fond farewell as they went into the library’s book sale bin.  They’ll make someone else happy, and now I have a little room for new stories, even some I’m writing myself.  You know, suddenly I’m looking at the bookcase in the dining room.  It’s looking a little crowded…


22 comments to Where Did All These Books Come From?

  • I know what you mean about houses without books, but I recently heard that some architechs were designing houses without book shelves because of the perceived irrelevance of actual printed books in the light of digital media and a decrease in reading among ordinary Americans…

  • Oh AJ, that is the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever heard!

  • I used to keep all the books I ever read, even the 7 years I lived in a 440 square foot apartment. I stacked them and used them for tables, with boards over the stacks and cloths over the boards. They were under teh bed and under the couches and stacked against the wall and two deep on the bookshelves. It was wonderful and I felt *me* everywhere in the books, because they had helped to shape who I was and how I thought.

    Then, my nephew fell in love with reading, and I gave him my collection. Trunks full of books, deliverd to his house. My sister-in-love had a fit. My husband nearly had a fit because his wife had changed over night from a book hoarder to a book giver-away-er. I thougth it was funny. And now I have very few books. Less than a thousand. I’m still me. And my house is less dusty. Don’t hate me, Misty!!! 😀

  • mudepoz

    There are book shelves built into the bathrooms. There are floor to ceiling bookshelves in our library. There is a bookcase or two in every room except the living room, and only because I have floor to ceiling windows with orchids in them. The cookbook’s take up a lot of the kitchen and part of my office. Damn the man! He actually put the books into categories. The TD has pushed my SF out to make room for his law books. We reached a compromise, if it’s signed, it can stay, if not, it goes to the attic or is sold or given away. The HEINLEIN’s STAY! The Anne McCaffrey’s stay! Currently there are books on the floor, books in boxes, books covering horizontal surfaces.

    What I really want are the old spinner racks my dad had in his warehouse when he was a book repackager. I think a great many of my books came from those days. What I ended up getting is a Kindle.

  • Ya know, watching Wasted Spaces, it seems pretty easy to put recessed shelving into a wall. 😉

  • My office alone has close to a thousand books in it; my girls’ rooms are packed with books; there are bookshelves downstairs in the living room, the family room, my wife’s office. A house without books is like a house without a kitchen.

  • A house without books is like a house without a kitchen.

    No…kitchen…? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

  • Unicorn

    I’ve never bothered to count our books. I suppose we would amount to about a thousand. Actually, I’ve no idea. Every single room in the house (yes, including the loo, it’s a good place to read on a hectic day, don’t you know) has stacks of books in it. I have two bookshelves, several stacks, and the Book Table, which is so covered in books that several peel off from the rest of the heap every now and then and cascade to the floor, accompanied by a cry of “Avalanche!”
    Faith – your apartment full of books sounds like heaven. My mom always told me not to read at the kitchen table. Well, no one ever said anything about not reading the actual kitchen table. 🙂

  • Books give my house a soul and a presence, they show the people who step through my door what kind of person I am, and they are all always there for me, just an arm’s reach away, when I want any one of them.
    —Alma Alexander

    Home is where the books are.
    —Richard Burton

    A room without books is like a body without a soul.

    Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired (by passionate devotion to them) produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can peradventure read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity…. We cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access, reassurance.
    —A .E. Newton

    I have lost all sense of home, having moved about so much. It means to me now—only that place where the books are kept.
    —John Steinbeck

  • About once a year, my husband and I go through our bookshelves to purge the “one-timers”, books that we read once and will probably never read again. We usually end up taking 2 or 3 boxes to the library. Christmas 2009 changed everything…we got Kindles. Now, every paper book we buy is a keeper. It cuts down on the cleaning that has to be done, but is causing more problems for our bookcases. We now have books stacked and double-parked, and we want to keep them all! I think we need to build more bookcases. 🙂

  • Susan

    My s.o. keeps telling me his next wife is gong to collect feathers. Granted this “threat” came about after two moves. Last move we hired professionals. I think he did it since he knew the library was going to be on the second floor.

    I LOVE books. I get nervous when I don’t have an unread book in the house waiting for me. I also go everywhere with a book, they’re great at keeping me from killing people when I have to wait for inordinately long periods of time. And, if I’m down to a handful of pages left of my current book, I’ll usually be caught carrying what ever is up next in the reading rotation.

    Despite being an IT geek, I still don’t own an e-reader nor do I have one installed on any of my mriad of electronic gadgets. (I’m not counting adobe PDF.) I honestly think it would probably cost me more money – $ for the e-copy and $ for the print copy. And, it’s comforting to know that even if I have to spend 8 days without power again, I’ll still be able to read. As long as I can read, I’ll be calm.

  • Sarah

    Oh yes, books, books, books. The funny thing is that a lot of people who see my house remark that there don’t seem to be that many books for a reader like me. The reason is that I lived in student housing for so long I got into the habit of either selling books or taking them home to my parents for long term storage. Since money was tight I also didn’t buy books that I could get from the library. The result is that the collection in my head is much larger than the collection in my house. When I moved 4 years ago I gave away or sold a significant number of books. Then I put all my work related books in my office at school. And a huge number of books remain in storage at my parents’ house. (Note to self – must retrieve books before September. Mom keeps making noise about cleaning out the upstairs.) Logistically this worked well, but it means that more and more often I find myself thinking “I want to read that again!” and can’t because the book is 3,000 miles away or off in an east coast library. I must begin rebuilding my collection.

  • I have too many books, but I haven’t quite reached that phase of being able to let go of them. My dad never let go of any of his, which is why I found myself reading things like Douglas Adams and David Eddings at the tender age of twelve.

    But we don’t have a lot of storage space, so the compromise was to buy clear Tupperware bins. It makes finding them easier. And it keeps them in relatively good condition.

    That being said, putting them out of sight means that occasionally, when I do go through the bins, I find stuff I’m really not interested in anymore. Now I find myself with much less emotional attachment to them. So I guess it’s on my to-do list. 😀

  • Lance Barron

    Misty, thank you for this. We have lots of books. I like having books around — they are in every room. We have thinned from time to time, but it is a very difficult thing to do. I don’t think having digital files on a “reader” will ever replace books for me.

  • Silly Faith, as if I could ever do anything but love you!

    Susan, I always have a book at hand, because I, like you, am calmer when I have something to read. I also carry my Kindle most places, since it’s light and easy to whip out in long lines when the wait looks unbearable.

    My dream house has always included a room with packed bookshelves from floor to ceiling on all four walls, with a big overstuffed chair in the middle and a good lamp. I swear, if someone would bring me a cup of coffee now and again, I could live forever in a room like that!

  • In the past 15 years I’ve moved 8 times. I’ve gotten rid of couches, chairs, desks, tables, beds, clothes, shoes (yes, ladies, I’ve fought off the Imelda-gene on occasion and divested myself of at least 50 pair of shoes!).
    What has traveled with me for every move is my books. Over 50 boxes worth during the last move 4 1/2 years ago.
    Now, I’ll part with a paperback – if it isn’t signed; if it isn’t written by someone I know; if it isn’t one I think I might want to read again – but I simply CAN’T part with a hardbound book.

    If the collection of books one owns is a reflection of that person’s mind, I’m sure I confuse a lot of people. Only another writer could possibly understand and appreciate my eclectic collection!

  • Razziecat

    My books are like a sacrament: necessary for spiritual health. We have cookbooks in the kitchen and other books everywhere else (except the bathroom…hmm, gotta work on that 🙂 ) My favorites are always close at hand and I have several copies of some. I, too, get nervous when I haven’t got something good to read, so I’m forever putting books on hold at the library. I plan on getting a Kindle but I won’t stop buying print entirely. Books are my oldest and best friends.

  • I’ve always been an avid collector of books, hanging on to most books that I’d read. Then I met my husband, another book collector and our collections happily merged. Two children later, both of them lovers of books too, and we’ve added their book collections to our personal library. I realised it was getting out of hand when we moved to our new house last year and I had to buy a new bookcase (which is now full). Just don’t think I can bring myself to lose any of them.

  • Misty, does this special room have one of those wall-ladders on rollers that you can swing around to get that dusty old tome from the top shelf in the corner?

    Mine does, or will… Someday.

  • Dave, absolutely! Me being 5’3″, it’s either the quaint rolly ladder or continuously calling on my son or husband to hand things down for me. 😀

  • Subcreator

    My husband works in a library and so brings home unwanted books from the donation or discard piles on an almost daily basis. Our house is swimming in books, many of which never get read. I think you can tell the most about us by seeing which books we have multiple copies of. There are the books that my husband brings home saying, “I know we already have two, but I just couldn’t resist.” I think we have at least 5 copies each of The Lord of the Rings and Dune.

  • Young_Writer

    My friends always tease my because I have three drawers full of books, my window’s seat has at least twenty, and three more small storage containers. I’ve read all but six. It is strange whe npeopel have no books. An imagination can get you far in life, and reading books helps a lot. Especially fantasy. 😉