Painful but Necessary

There comes a time when one must admit that one does not need to own every book in the whole world.  When the books are shoved sideways on top of paperbacks that are already two rows deep, well, it is time for some serious soul searching.  And a thinning of the library.

First to go are the books where somehow I have an ARC, a hardback and then a paperback.  Hardback stays, the other two can fly.  Then there are the books I bought, tried to read and could not finish.  Sorry, guys, you did not make the cut.   Then the books I’ve read but cannot imagine ever wanting to read again. Time to let you fly off and find a more appreciative home. 

As I am doing this, I am fighting guilt.  “I paid money for this book.  I should read it.”  or “This book got great reviews. Everyone talks about it to this day.  I should make myself read it.”   Then I open the book, start in on the first paragraph, and within a page or two, I suddenly realize that, “No, my first impression was correct. This book is not talking to me.”

Old textbooks?  How did these get saved all these years?  Spanish workbooks, health textbooks, basic geometry.  Off they go.  Then I start encountering the ‘required reading’ books.  How many copies of Three Theban Plays does any home library need?  How many paperback copies of MacBeth, highlighted and Post-it-Noted to within an inch of its binding?  Poor things, off you go to find a home with some high school student.  I nearly saved the copy of The Great Gatsby just for the seven sentence outline that one of my offspring wrote in the front.  Hm. They did not appear to enjoy this story much!

There are other kinds of chance encounters on the book shelves.  Books I don’t recall buying, but suddenly find intriguing.  And other books, books I can’t imagine that I ever paid money for that go into the toss box without another thought.   Let them go off to the library used book shelf and with their sale bring some badly needed money into the library.

A shameful secret?  There are three books in the box that I actually read and enjoyed.  And then real life encounters with the authors cooled my appreciation for their work.  Very petty, I know.  But if there are three books that I am parting with on those terms, there are several dozen books I am keeping, in spite of feeling luke warm or even negative about the creators.   There is some sort of a moral there, that if you write a good enough book, I’ll keep liking your story even if you personally make a horrifying impression on me!

This is also an opportunity to reorder my library.  To put all the Scarborough in one place, to get all the deLint together, to find all the various volumes of Joe Lansdale and gather them into one glittering hoard of gems. Time to clear some space to put the Evanovich in numerical order.

 My daughter wandered through as I was sorting the Lansdale.  “Hey, that’s my copy!”

I take insufferable joy in opening it and pointing out that it’s signed to ME!  Ha-ha! 

I do not point out to her that the one that is three volumes over is signed to her!!!  Later. She will look for it and find it. But for now, I will hoard it for her.

So, despite the fact that I will part with four cardboard boxes of books today, at the end of the day I will actually feel richer for rediscovered treasures, for moments spent dusting off old friends and for those lost moments when I actually dared to open an old favorite and once more fall into the depths of a story.

Oh, my books.  Somehow, I don’t think seeing a file title on a hand-held screen could ever be quite the same as sorting through my own library.


23 Responses to Painful but Necessary

  1. I used to be that emotionally attached to my books too. I used to keep extra copies of favorites in case I lost them, dropped them in the bathtub or wanted to give one away. I’m a born again book clutter reducer these days though. I’ve recently made a new distinction though that has helped me rid myself of scads of square feet of book space. If it’s genre fiction, not signed and not by a select few authors that I keep in hardback, and it comes in an ebook, it’s out. All genre fiction now lives on my stanza/kindle/nook for iphone. Hundreds of books given away or sent to Goodwill. And they’re with me wherever I go so I can re-read at will.

  2. Gah.. you just reminded me that I need to get rid of my textbooks. I dread sorting through them.

    It sounds like you had an interesting time sorting through your books, though. Always an experience to see what’s been collected over the years.

  3. I agree – I love the idea of eBooks in theory, but there is something about the smell and feel of real paper books.

    And now I’m sitting here, I’m looking at the books stacked on top of my computer, shoved sideways in the bookshelves to fill extra space and stacked everywhere. Maybe I ought to reorganise mine…

  4. Omg I went through that same thing the other week. I got rid of…wait for it…..6 boxes of books! I was so proud of myself. It is very hard but one must do it, if only to make room for the new specimens mwahahah… cough..

  5. I totally agree with Janet Evanovich’s work. I laught until I cry, cough, sputter, and end up wheezing. My husband just looks at me, then I reread what set me off the first time and off I go again.

    Have you read Anne Bishop. I like all of her stuff. The second book in her Black Jewels Trilogy is pretty funny with the interaction between the father figure (Sataen) and the girls (the coven). Very good read.

    I have enjoyed all of your books and I look forward to readying your newest work which will be out soon, I hope.

  6. I saw you mention Pratchett in your previous post, if you’ve not had the opportunity to read one or two of his books I would highly recommend it for some light-hearted fun with a few different levels. Lovely bloke too by all accounts.

  7. Ah… This post resonates with me. 3 years ago I had to go through my library when I moved. Now, I am getting married and have to move again… once again, I must pick which one of my children I love more. I ended up creating several piles of books, inviting my friends over for dinner, and letting them fill a grab bag of goodies.

  8. Will you read my book? its called:
    The Sword and the Dragon by M.R. Mathias and is available at Amazon. com in the Kindle store. You dont need a Kindle… There is a 70 page free preview available for PC there and I would love to have some input from my second favorite author in the enire realm of fantasy…. and any of her fans of course.

  9. Ebooks? do you mean Ebrooks? hehe I just finished reading All 3 of your Soldier’s Son Trilogy books. – Just want to say that I Absolutely loved them all and couldn’t put them down til I’d finished. You are one of the best writers I’ve ever read! What I loved most about these stories were that no matter how far Nevare had gotten away from what he thought was right, there was always some sort of redemption for him in the end. – Sorry to gush so much on your blogpage – but just wanted to say Thank you – and I think you’re great! – God bless. Jesse G. -Atlanta, GA

  10. I feel your pain. I too have difficulty relinquishing my grip on my books. My saving grace for book overflow is two sons and a grandson who I have successfully initiated into the wonders of scifi/fantasy. When they borrow a book, my only request is that they don’t return it to me. Give them to each other but once it leaves the premise it is theirs. I have visiting rights. It is a solution that works for me. BTW the Live Ship Series is ranked as a family favorite.

  11. talking of ebooks, I recently bought a kindle and have been waiting for Dragon Haven to be released for Australia. The book has been in the stores since the begining of the year, but I wanted to buy it from Amazon as an ebook. Why has it taken so long for it to be released by Amazon and why is an ebook double the price as a book?

  12. Hi Tracey!

    Each publisher determines his own release date of the various forms of the book. And often they are far beyond the logic of this writer! I don’t have any idea why the ebook would be priced higher than the paper book, either. It makes me wonder if there is an error in the listing or something.


  13. I am french so please forgive my bad english… I would have liked to let a reply on “Played like a fish” but could’nt (joy of the internet?!), so I let it here.
    I think writing is exactly like dreaming by certain aspects : when you dream, you are the dreamer, and whatever you dream is a question or an answer from yourself. When you write, it’s the same : you give to you before everyone else the questions and answers that are important to you.
    The problem with “real life” is that when you meet someone, you can think he is a good guy, or a bad guy,… but you haven’t the same power on him as on your characters: he is free to act differently from what you would have expected him to do. But I think it’s a chance : when someone acts strangely (in my eyes), I try to understand why it affects me so, why I choose to come near that person above all the other people, and so and so. It doesn’t mean that I don’t suffer from people who hurt me, but I try to learn more from them about my own way. I must confess that I do exactly the same with your books : they always lighten one aspect or another of my life.
    So I really want to thank you warmly for your art! It’s a royal gift for youy readers.

  14. I have now read all of your books and love them. I have never been a science fiction reader, but I am hooked on your work. The relationship between Fitz and the Fool is something I am not able to describe. Brillian and amazing. I hope that you change your mind and a story comes alive with those two again.

  15. I remember the first time my mom put her foot down, pointed her finger at me and said, “Thou wilt get rid of some books”. The first time as as adult any way (me, not my mom). I got rid of 500 in the first culling and that was almost 30 years ago. I thin regularly now days, everytime I go to visit my mom and I bring them to the library in her town.

    I go through my selection and I get rid of books that I haven’t read in years and know I will not read again. It might take a few passes to give up some of the books. With my absolute favorite authors, well, I have found that if they write with another author, some I like and others I don’t. Have you ever bought a book by your absolute favorite auther who has written one with another author and now you can’t even finish the book? The three in that series are now gone (never could get through the first one) and I just don’t buy any more books written by those two. That has happened with a couple of my authors.

    Anyway, I feel your pain, but, empty shelves allow for more book buying. 😀

  16. I moved from California to New Mexico. Then I moved from New Mexico to Georgia. Before I left New Mexico, I donated 356 books to the local library. The librarians were so happy that it took the edge off of leaving all my “friends” behind. I feel your pain.

  17. My mom and I share the same taste in books. We only buy the ones we love, all the Hobbs for example. We keep them, my Mom because she wants something to look forward to when she gets Alzheimers (her biggest fear) and me, so that I can pass them on to my children. Perhaps they will read them to me when I am old and blind, the way I read to each one of them nightly for the first 6 years of my life. They owe me big time, so I need to keep a lot of books! (18 years worth of reading?!)

  18. I find it so hard to throw out books – even bad ones. I’ve got a horribly stuffed bookshelf and my wife is constantly telling me to do a cull, but I keep putting it off. I can’t bear to part with any of them.

    Worse still though, is losing books. Somewhere in the middle of a moving phase I seem to have lost at least one large box full of books, maybe more. I’ve been doggedly looking for it for about three or four years now, refusing to admit that it is long gone and I’ll never find it again. Every now and then I think of a book I’d like to grab and remember that it must have been in THAT box, and then I spend the next hour trying to re-live the events in a futile attempt to come up with a fresh lead. I just can’t let it go. In my darkest moments, I even entertain thoughts that my mischievous wife somehow disposed of the books, but she pleads innocence and I almost believe her.

    The good news is that my Hobb books are either on the shelf, or at my Mum’s house where they are safe. 🙂

  19. Robin,

    I talked to you a couple days ago concerning my hardback Dragon Keeper which was falling apart, and I wanted to let you know what happened.

    I was in touch with Shawn from The Signed Page, and he was very helpful. I sent him a couple pictures of the book I have, and he sent me a new one before I even returned the old one to him. I was very impressed with his customer service and prompt replies! I am sending the defective one back to him today; so all worked out perfectly!

    Thank you for your advice, I am glad my problem was so easily resolved!


  20. Shawn is the absolute BEST!

    I am so glad he resolved this for you. And I continue to be very glad to recommend as an excellent place to acquired first edition autographed hardbacks! Go look now and see what Shawn has coming up!
    •Bullet by Laurell K. Hamilton
    •Labyrinth by Kat Richardson
    •The Bear by RA Salvatore (signed by Todd Lockwood)
    •The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
    •Antiphon by Ken Scholes
    •Discord’s Apple by Carrie Vaughn

    Great gifts for book collectors, too.