Other than the occasional college hand-me-down, garage sale find, or unnecessary kitchen appliance, my main contribution to our household’s decorating scheme comes in book form. Hardcover, paperback, electronic – if you can read it, I’ve probably owned a copy. Sometimes two or three due to forgetfulness and a variety of gift-giving occasions.
I could blame my long-ago English major for the glut, but my Intro to Shakespeare and Literature of the Romantic Era classes are only partly responsible for the jaw-dropping array of books that took over our back bedroom almost the moment we moved into this house. Piles upon piles soon spilled over the floor, most scattered and tumbled on a search for an unread volume or a beloved favorite. I could have hidden bodies under my Jane Austen collection alone, and no one would know. Not even the most dedicated English lit major could have read all these in four years, plus done all the requisite essays, coffee shop stops and poetry readings, and no sane professor would have required it.
No, a closer diagnosis of the problem actually comes down to one word: Obsession. Since I am a book collector with a typical collector’s zeal for accumulation and a horror of thinning the masses, my toppled stacks have only grown larger and more intimidating over the years. I suspect they brought others into the fold the way all the best cult members do, and naturally some of the more prolific ones bred, so there were soon tiny Little Golden Books running around everywhere, flashing their yellow foil spines and colorful covers. At least the Poky Little Puppy appeared to be house-trained or we’d really have had a mess.
And so over the course of the last several weeks I sorted and stacked and piled and boxed, employing a ruthlessness the strictest anti-clutter guru would applaud. Soon only my unread books and favorite re-reads remained, fluffing out a goodly number of shelves in place of the photos and knickknacks that used to occupy those slots. The second-tier books – the ones I liked but see no need to re-read – I farmed out to friends.
In the end, I dumped the final rejects, those even my friends wouldn’t take, into several crates bound for the library. This gave me a little twinge since it’s a bit of a moral dilemma. My soul could be in peril if I foist off my least favorite tomes on these unsuspecting librarians and their patrons. But then, someone must have seen something in them, or they wouldn’t have been printed in the first place. That’s what I tell myself anytime I encounter a book that doesn’t lift my balloon, at least: Someone must have thought it was good.
The upshot is that we’ve reclaimed a room. I also have a tidy little tax refund for a charitable contribution plus an entire set of shelves dedicated to unread wonders, making new book selection easy. Now the hard part: only buying the essentials until I’ve pared away the unreads. Wish me luck and a great deal of fortitude on that one. I’m going to need it.