I confess: I am a book hoarder.
I have an emotional attachment to books that manifests itself by my searching out bookshops, acquiring books, carrying at least one book with me wherever I go, having a pile of books by the side of the bed, storing books on shelves all over the house. I instinctively believe in the adage “there is no such thing as too many books, only not enough shelves”.
But it can’t carry on.
First, the house is becoming untidy — you almost couldn’t see the walls for the books. Second, we’re planning a move and those overflowing shelves have to be thinned out for the hoped-for viewings. Why? Apparently received wisdom says that too many prospective buyers are intimidated by the sight of books or that they are unable to envision shelves filled with their own stuff if they’re already filled to overflowing with someone else’s stuff. And third — do I really need all those books? My late father-in-law couldn’t understand why I had so many — did I get them as job lots at auctions? Surely I didn’t choose each one of them individually?
Anyway, this downsizing exercise is down to Head versus Heart. As it always is. First set of questions to be asked of each book: do I love it? will I read it again? Actually it’s more complicated than that. Again, it always is. As with most bibliophiles my books split into fiction and non-fiction. The first category includes classics with all the paraphernalia (introduction, discussion, notes) that you don’t get with most ebooks, plus prized editions and titles I’ve read and will definitely re-read. The second is made up of titles I’ve by and large kept because they’re authoritative, have historical interest or are indispensable for reference — for the definitive study that, at the moment, I still mean to write. The do-I-love-it and will-I-read-it-again questions now seem simplistic. But I have to start somewhere, and so my book deselection starts.
They say with the decluttering process that you have to be ruthless. Many decluttering gurus swear by the “one in, one out” principle for managing their books. It’s too late for that now: it has to be one out, then another one out, and another. No more surreptitious snaffling of the odd tome from that visit to a bookshop: only browsing allowed, no purchases. It’s hard keeping to this self-imposed moratorium, but it’s getting easier. So I tell myself. No pain is no gain. Or, in the case of bookweeding, pain is loss.
So where will the discarded books go? Not to the tip — that would be like murder. I’m not mercenary either, so I won’t be actively looking to sell on eBay or at an auction or wherever. (Anyway, I’m lazy, and the hard sell is just so much hard work to my way of thinking.) So it’ll be giveaways: to family, who will have first dibs on books I think they might want or like; to friends, not that I have many of these; to a charity shop like Oxfam where sales will help do good as well as bring enjoyment to the buyers; and a select few to eventually go to a specialist Arthurian library if they want them.
In the meantime I’m slowing the process down massively by reading, rereading and reviewing. Like weeding a garden it’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it — and I might as well enjoy the pleasure of the blooms before they go over.