We’re probably going to be moving soon.
In a way, it’s not really news. Last Christmas a friend of ours asked when we were moving. Rather puzzled, the SO said that we weren’t planning to (I know, I know, that was only four months ago). Oh, the friend replied. You usually do.
And he was right. We usually do. We move a lot. And this creates problems for the dedicated bookworm (aka book hoarder), even in this age of e-books.
For years, working and living on boats, I had no chance to collect books. There just wasn’t space (and this was before e-books, because yes, I am that old). I read books and passed them on, and was at least secure in the knowledge that my dad had my Moomintroll and Tolkien collections on his boat, safe and waiting for me. Everything else I had to just let go.
Then I moved ashore, and oh, the glory of charity bookshops in the UK! So many of them! So many books! So many books for so little money! I want all the books! (This has not worn off. I’m a dedicated bookshop tourist, and pretty much managed to arrange a whole trip to Edinburgh around finding secondhand bookshops. We had to, um, check a second bag coming back).
There was much book hoarding. Until we moved into a campervan to head down to Europe, which meant that although I did manage to cram probably an inadvisable amount on board, most had to go. Which hurt rather a lot, as I’d amassed a nice collection of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, among others, as well as a whole range of Orion SF Masterworks.
So when (after selling the campervan and living in France for a while), I ended up owning a bookshop in Australia, my book hoarding tendencies were fully unleashed. I wanted all the books, and I had an excuse to get them. It was glorious, although perhaps not quite as well-thought-out as it could have been. I’m not entirely sure bookworms are the best people to own bookshops, to be honest. I once took a book off the shelf because it was the last copy and I wanted it.
It was my shop, okay?
Anyhow, when I sold the shop, the new owner didn’t want all the secondhand stock, and I couldn’t ship everything back to Europe (and, admittedly, I didn’t want all the books. Just … a lot). I managed to get it down to a few boxes, and decided that was the last time I was going to give away books that I was just going to re-buy again.
So now I’m sitting here looking at the latest accumulation of books and wondering what ones I can pass on. Wondering how to make that decision. I know for some people it’s easy – if they’ve read it, and know they’re not going to read it again, off it goes. And I get that. I do. But …
Every book reminds me of reading it. It reminds me of characters and worlds the way photos remind you of old friends and distant places. I may not ever re-read them, but if they’re not there on my shelf, waiting to be pulled down and dusted off and opened to read a favourite line, how will I be reminded of them? And sometimes there’s a phrase or a line that sticks in your head, and you want to grab the book to revisit it. This is another reason I love having paper books still – I find it harder to flick back through my kindle, and they don’t spark memories the same way a shelf of fading covers does.
Sometimes a book healed you when you needed it, or was company when you were alone. Sometimes it gave you an alternative view on the world, and you want to be able to breathe the scent of its pages and be reminded to look at things from a different angle. Maybe this one lifted you up when you were down, and just seeing it makes you smile, or maybe that one was given to you by someone special, and even if you don’t love the book itself, you love this copy because of who it came from.
And then there are the books I know I’ll reach for again and again, and it might be a decade between reads – or more – but I want that book to be there when I need it.
Although, of course, there’s the simple fact that I just like books, and can have slightly Gollum-like issues about them.
So I’m going to have to be a little ruthless. I actually have a shelf of DNFs that live behind the chair, and another shelf of books that have been read and promptly forgotten.
But I still find it weirdly hard to get rid of them, because what if I go back to them one day and actually enjoy them? What if I need to give them another chance? What if I give them away and am immediately seized by an overwhelming desire to read them? What if all the other books in the world are suddenly devoured by greater blue-eared skinks, and I’ve only got what’s on my shelves? I mean, it could happen, right?
I also realise I’m writing this instead of making decision about shelves, but one needs to build up to giving away books. It’s not a matter to be taken lightly.
How about you, lovely people? Do you collect books? Do you find it easy to pass them on? Let me now your tips and tricks below!