Wednesday, February 9, 2011


A newly organized bookcase (note my silver baby cup and teething ring).

In our exchange of emails, Karen sometimes suggests that I expand on one of my ideas for a post to her blog. Here is one such post.

I retired in 2008 and am just now getting around to one of the many projects that have been languishing at the top of my to-do list: making room for my books. Mark Twain was once asked why there were so many books piled on his floor. He replied that it was easier to borrow books than to borrow bookcases. My problem is not borrowed books; rather it is that I have no more room for bookcases⎯even if I could borrow some!

Now that my project is underway, it is clear that room is being taken up by books that I seem to saving for no apparent reason other than my hating to get rid of any book. Steeling myself, I have been undertaking the painful job of culling. Some books will be donated, but others belong in the trash. Do I really need textbooks written in 1985, especially those that I never used, didn’t like in the first place, and came unsolicited from publishers? I want to keep Broom and Selznick’s Sociology, 2nd edition, since it was used in the first sociology course I ever took, but I don’t think I need all the future editions. And do I really need TWO copies of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel Wives and Daughters? Since the books I’ve read are alphabetized, I will no longer feel that I can only read books whose authors’ names are in the part of the alphabet where there is still room on a shelf.

I have to admit that I am enjoying the project (except for working on the top shelves, which requires that I stand on the highest step of the ladder. I do wish I were taller!) One bookcase is for unread books and, in culling some books and reorganizing those that have survived the cut, I have discovered some very interesting ones that I had forgotten about and will read soon: an assortment of sociology (Peter Berger’s The Sacred Canopy, Stanford Lyman’ The Seven Deadly Sins), anthropology (Gregory Bateson’s Mind and Nature), philosophy (Michel Foucault’s The Archeology of Knowledge), biographies (Barbara Goldsmith’s of Marie Curie, Marina Warner’s of Joan of Arc), and the occasional novel (Sarah Grand, The Beth Book).

I know if I only had e-books then I wouldn’t have this project to undertake. How much I would miss! I love remembering the books I’ve read, holding them in my hands, leafing through them, at times even calling up when I read them: this one on our vacation by the lake, this one that helped me through the flu, these that were presents. Scrolling through a Kindle doesn’t have the same appeal at all.

1 comment:

  1. You can sell unwanted books to Powell's Bookstore. Take a look at their website, email them the info, book by book, and they will make an offer. They pay postage - you get a store credit. It's a good way to cull your shelves.