Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bedknobs, Broomsticks, and How Many Bookshelves?

I'm not exactly a "neat freak."  I try to keep a clean house, but I do occasionally forget the laundry in the hamper or suddenly notice that dog hair has taken over our furniture.  But when I clean up, I like things organized in very specific ways.  Mr. Nerd once found me in the closet holding up two shirts and mumbling to myself.  When he asked what I was doing, I said that I was sorting my clothes according to ROYGBIV, of course, and which shirt did he think was closer to indigo?  Sorting kitchen supplies by purpose is all well and good, but I'd like them separated by frequency of use as well.  Spices?  Alphabetical order only goes so far; sweet and heat need to be apart from each other.

We had a bit of meltdown of order recently, so some of these things aren't "right," and I'm itching for the opportunity to fix them all.  The disorder makes me anxious, which in turn makes me less likely to do anything to correct it, which then makes me more anxious... it's a vicious cycle.  Whenever I feel panic rising, I turn to books.  Reading is my therapy.  Sometimes just looking at the books has a calming effect, because our books, being some of the few inanimate objects Mr. Nerd and I truly care about, are always well-organized.  And we have a lot of books.

Of course, it doesn't help when an entire shelf looks like this.
The next one down is all Terry Pratchett.

There are pluses and minuses to book hoarding.  The best things?  The first ones that come to mind are the feel and the smell.  I would purchase "Old Book" instead of "New Car" smell in a heartbeat.  And there is just something about the crinkles around the page edges and lines in the spine of a well-loved book that makes me nostalgic and about the crisp edges of a new book that gives me shivers of anticipation.  The memories are another wonderful aspect of books.  Picking up a book that I read or had read to me when I was younger and rereading it is like taking a bite of a chocolate and tasting hints of peppermint or cinnamon that I've never noticed before that make it just that much more delicious.  I feel like I'm in my room growing up, head and shoulders under the covers reading until late at night, hoping my mom won't peek in and start telling me that old wives' tale about how reading in the dark will damage my eyes just so that I will go to sleep.  But at the same time as the books bring memories of the past, I can pick up on nuances of humor, plot, and character development that I might not have noticed or been too immature or inexperienced to appreciate the first time around.

           "You can't get a cup of tea big enough 
               or a book long enough to suit me."
     -C. S. Lewis

There are more practical pros to book hoarding, like always having a copy of a classic when it is assigned at school.  I know some schools allow electronic books now, but not all do, and I've always been frustrated by those mouse-over comments in electronic formats.  Yes, I've written in many books, and yes, I know that is sacrilege to some.  But I always think it is entertaining to find my old comments when reading, especially if I'm having a completely different reaction to the book.  Another fun part of book hoarding is having interesting research material or completely random information that happens to be useful.  Want to know why your parents or older siblings keep referring to a country called Czechoslovakia?  We have geography books spanning three generations.  Curious about how the economy of the 80's compares to the one now?  We have various textbooks and nonfiction books by economists in both decades.  What did they add to this textbook that made it imperative to get the newest edition?  Look in the previous edition; we probably have it.

Of course there are problems with book hoarding.  Emotional attachment can make it hard to accept that certain books would be appreciated at new homes.  We try to donate/give away old books and also have a trade-in store nearby that will sell the books at very low prices.  But sometimes it can become difficult to let go.  And the most obvious problem that has to be mentioned: books take up space.  We don't mind much, as we would rather have them than most decorations, but when a well-meaning relative gives us a pretty vase and says, "Well, we could just make a little space on this shelf...," it's difficult to say, "No, no you can't.  The book stops here."  Also, when we get a new book, sometimes it is hard to put it where it belongs without moving another, and one book in a set on a different shelf than its counterparts always looks so sad and lonely.

And then I inevitably start singing "Carnival Town."

Books are wonderful in the old-fashioned sense of the word.  Don't get me wrong- I love my Kindle.  I remember a time when going on vacation meant one suitcase for clothes and another for books, so I do love the convenience (and the fact that I can store so many more books on it; I think if we had hard copies of all the books we own, we would be beyond eccentric and into pathological territory), but... I just can't imagine a world without printed books.

There was an old woman 
who lived in a library.
She sat in a corner
with too many books to carry.

She had grand adventures
going on in her head.
And she always wanted to read
one more chapter before going to bed.

 Yes, I'll be that woman.


  1. My name is Erica, and I am a book-aholic. I recently went to the local library's book sale on the last day. You get to buy a bag for $10, and as many books as you can fit in there, you can walk out of the library with (including ones that are stacked up high. Let's just say I accepted the challenge, bought two bags, and brought home over 30 books. Yes, 30 books. *cough* I had to buy more bookshelves.

    1. I... I think my brain just exploded. A library that has all-you-can-get-in-a-bag sales? That is a marvelous, magical place.

    2. Our old library system in Texas had a similar sale- each year we would walk away with 5 bags of books and spend no more than 30-40 (old trades were .50, newer were 1-2 and hardcover were usually 2.50-5 with some nice old books thrown in for a little more) and since it was a more isolated metro everyone donated to it and they had a spectacular selection. I was severely disappointed with our now local sale- cost twice as much and not nearly the same selection (two long fair halls v. a small classroom).

      I *may* have had my parents drive 3 hours last fall (they were coming anyway) with another bookcase so I didn't have to get rid of any. Now we've run out of wall space for another. I did manage to bring myself to sell all but my most comprehensive beginner horse books (reasoning? DH is going to learn whether he wants to or not) but now I'm accumulating dressage theory books I ignored before so that's moot.

    3. Seriously, I must live in the wrong place!

      Sad that your new local sale is not as good though :-(.