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Library Card?

Library Card?

IMG_2561So … do you have a library? I mean, shelves in your own home, filled with books?

I was just reading this essay from the NY Times about weeding out books from a personal library, and it got me thinking.

Where books are concerned, there’s no question. I am a hoarder.

Almost every book that has come into my hands since high school is still here, in my collection. Three thousand, thirty-three books, in all. (Of which, for the record, I’ve read all but 31. Because yes, I keep all my books organized in an Excel database … doesn’t everyone?)

I can also tell you exactly how many I’ve gotten rid of over the years. 134. Because, yes, I track that, too.

Laura Miller says, in her article,

When you’re young and still constructing an identity, the physical emblems of your inner life appear more essential, and if you’re single, your bookshelves provide a way of advertising your discernment to potential mates.

I found that interesting–I don’t think of my library as a way of “advertising” myself, but it is very much a reflection of who I am. When I’m interested in something, I buy books. And even when I’ve moved on to other things … the books remain, both as reference and road signs, a flag marking that I Was Here.

Which also means that getting rid of books is like getting rid of part of my history … and who wants to do that? I sometimes wonder if, somehow, cleaning out my library would be a way of starting fresh? Like moving to a new town, or getting rid of all the old momentos from an ex … But what happens when you decide later that you wish you had kept them?

Of course, it’s true–space can be an issue. Little by little, I’ve taken over three closets in our house, as well as several walls, with bookcases. There is obviously a certain point where there simply is no more space. Or you suddenly ARE moving to a new town and you’ve got to cut down on weight. (Because, never forget, several thousand books are heavy.)

My philosophy is that you can’t have too many books, just too little space.

The other quote I really liked in this article?

I have turned out to be less rational about this than I thought, and have made my library into a charm against mortality. As long as I have a few unread books beckoning to me from across the room, I tell myself I can always find a little more time.

So true, so true… Or am I the only one who worries that, when she dies, she’s never going to know how the books she’s currently reading will end? I’m not a defeatist, dark kind of person, but sometimes I rush breathlessly to the end of a story just so that I can know what happens. (And I drove extra, extra carefully to the bookstore the morning the seventh Harry Potter book came out. I would have been tormented forever if I hadn’t had a chance to find out how that series ended.)

What about you? Do you hoard your books? Or do you just keep the jewels and easily, happily, pass on the dross so that your collection is as clean, pure, and magnificent as is possible? Which books would you absolutely NOT give up?

12 thoughts on “Library Card?

  1. Renae

    I am definitely a book hoarder, but my excuse is I need them for homeschool.

    My favorite books are the old ones. I plan to always keep my copy of The Scottish Chiefs and my art books. Someday I want to have all our books in a database, but until I get a laptop it’s too overwhelming a project to consider.

    Renae’s last blog post..When Circumstances Squeeze Wish Lists

  2. --Deb Post author

    It took me an entire summer to log in all of my books–mostly because I WAS having to lug them back and forth from the shelves to the computer and back again. And I only had about 1200 books at the time, too!

  3. Lillie Ammann

    My husband and I both still have college textbooks and nonfiction books we’ve collected through the years. But the only fiction books I keep are autographed copies—I have several hundred. In the past 8 or 9 years, most of my reading has been on one of my e-book readers, so most of the “books” i have are e-books stored on my computer.

    Lillie Ammann’s last blog post..Merry Christmas

  4. --Deb Post author

    I still have college textbooks, too, but I think I cling to the fiction more, not less, if only because I’m more likely to reread it. (As in, I reread fiction ALL the time!)

    Oh, and I’ve never done an ebook on one of those reader things…

  5. Lillie Ammann


    Even when I read print, I often recycled fiction. I shared with my mother and sisters, and we all contributed to the big box of books we kept in the breakroom of my interior landscaping company. All employees could help themselves to any book there, and everyone brought in books to share when they finished. I must admit, though, I was the biggest contributor because I read the most.

    Without my eBookWise and my Kindle, I’d have a hard time reading. There isn’t much of a selection in large print books, and I can no longer read normal print.

    Lillie Ammann’s last blog post..Merry Christmas

  6. Melissa Donovan

    I absolutely hoard books, but I’m also pretty good about getting rid of the ones I didn’t like much or those that are out of date (old computer books, etc.). Space is always an issue for me but I have a wall of my most treasured books beautifully displayed on shelves. When I’m bored, I rearrange them and leaf through them for fun!

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Year-End Review for Writers (Writing Exercise)

  7. Gillian

    Yes, I’m a hoarder, and I reread certain fiction, some things 10 or more times, I’m sure. I have done some disposing as we move from time to time. I’m impressed with your database too. Have you considered any of the library catalogue programs? What data goes into your listing for a book, publisher, year and so forth, like a bibliography?

  8. --Deb Post author

    I had actually started with a database program, way back, but at some point, a few computers ago, it was no longer compatible with the operating system, so I switched the whole file to Excel which, really, works just fine.

    What do I track?
    Topic (i.e., history, knitting, writing, mystery)
    Subject (a 2-digit code I made up, and doesn’t quite overlap the topics … kind of like the difference between tags and categories)
    Brief description

    I just wish I’d thought to add ISBN numbers and the date purchased to all of them. One of the main reasons I’ve never tried joining Librarything or any of the other online cataloguing things is … 3,034 books! There is no way on earth I’ve got the time or inclination to go through and try to find all the ISBN numbers for them, and the “search” features on those sites are just NOT efficient if you’ve got more than a couple hundred books!

  9. Julie Roads

    Terrific post. I’m also a huge book hoarder…and just recently trying to get myself to the library…but I love owning books because I really love them, I mean REALLY. I dog ear and spill food on them, they get ransacked by my kids and my dogs…I can’t stand dust jackets and those end up bent, ripped and lost under couches.

    And my library definitely makes a statement about who I am – it’s fairly hilarious to watch/document my life as you peruse the titles…

    Julie Roads’s last blog post..When you are so 2009 & your web copy is so 1987

  10. --Deb Post author

    I always take the dust jackets off when I read the books and put them back on when I reshelve them. My books … at least the ones I’ve gotten since college, when I was still lugging them around in bags all the time … are in remarkably good shape. Some look like they haven’t even been read! I’m ridiculously proud of the fact that I read all the way through Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals” without creasing the back of the book at all.

  11. Elizabeth

    I am not a book hoarder. I get most of my novels from the library, because I rarely re-read current fiction. The books I keep are non-fiction and classics. I also like to collect vintage children’s books, so that’s where my money and bookshelf space are alotted!

    Elizabeth’s last blog post..Dresser Dish

  12. hope42day

    I am a hoarder of some books. But I don’t hoard as much anymore. Instead, I may leave a book that I loved in a doctor’s office or grocery cart or hospital waiting room or give it to a friend or family member. I have found that I get much more joy from sharing it with others and thinking or knowing someone has benefited from reading it. Plus, my home is small and I do not have the space to store the many books I would like 🙂 There is a website http://www.bookcrossing.com where books get uniquely recycled. Check it out if you want an avenue to share your books.
    Peace and Blessings…

    hope42day’s last blog post..The White Stuff