There was a recent discussion amongst some writer buds about the books on our shelves. The question posed was, “am I meant to have read all of those books?” The consensus was, “no.”
In my case, this is what happened:
- I am gifted books. A LOT of books. At workshops and conferences, one receives books in the hope of reviews. At most writing conferences they have something called a “goody room” – a room filled with books, swag, and chocolate. I tend to hit the chocolate, I might take a free pen if it’s got a rubbery grip, and I’ll carefully select a book or two – not usually more than a couple, as I am a very slow reader. Okay, I might walk out with a bag full if someone is there thrusting them at me. I try to read them, but there’s an hours to day issue, as in not enough of the first in the latter.
- The TBR or the “to-be-read” pile. These are books that appealed to some part of me when I foolishly walked into a brick-and-mortar bookstore. I haven’t read them yet, but there is a plan to read them. These books often land in a stack on my nightstand until it begins to teeter when they are then stacked on a bookshelf until I eventually get around to putting them in order.
- The leftover “stock.” I may have mentioned that my family owns and used to operate an antique mall. Our parents needed help on weekends and later, full-time, so during my stint there, I kept a small room filled with used books. It was not a gamble in purchasing books for resale. I simply bought whatever I liked and that I thought I might get around to reading. When we leased the building to one of the dealers, I closed up “shop” and my entire stock of used books came home with me.
The problem is, in my case, a real estate-to-book ratio. So this week began the process of moving bookshelves, painting, and curating the books, some of whom I consider to be old friends. I cannot possibly read all of the books on my shelves. Not enough hours in the day, weeks, months, years, but how do you choose which of your friends stay and which ones go? Here’s how:
- Try the Marie Kondo tidy. I tried. Everything was going great. I whittled down the clothes in my closet to a carefully chosen capsule wardrobe, and then I got to the section on “books.” That’s when I quit. How does one pare down old friends? Well, I’m trying it again this week. Bye bye, old friends. It’s not that I didn’t love you, but I want to share the love with someone else. I swear, you’re special!
- Donate those that just don’t have a permanent place in your heart to your local library. Maybe they just haven’t found their forever home yet.
- Start a “Little Free Library.” I did that this past summer. Of course, I keep forgetting to go out there and refresh the selections… and I’m always a little bit hurt when I install a book that I have loved that no one else seems to want to read. Don’t they know it has had a life-altering impact on someone?
Then there’s the problem of how to organize those that you do decide to keep.
- Organize by color. I mean, you COULD. I wouldn’t. I won’t! (Note to my daughter – please do not re-arrange them again by color. It took two afternoons to re-alphabetize them. Okay, they did look great, but I couldn’t find anything.) The cover color often does not match the spine, or I remember it as being orange, but in reality, it’s blue with orange type.
- Alphabetize by category using a version of the Dewey decimal system. I have mine divided into fiction and non-fiction. All of the fiction is alphabetized by author, then title, but not by genre. All of the non-fiction is just clumped by subject matter – art, architecture, science and nature, history and biographies, crafts, building, gardening… A lot of these are going to get heavily curated. Sorry old friends. You’ve served your purpose, so now you can go into the service of someone else.
And sometimes, there is the odd book that just doesn’t make the cut. Sadly, I have a stack of books that I don’t mind turning into a craft project. And some of them get repurposed when I turn them, spine backward and use them for insulation in my office gable. Don’t judge me. Don’t judge a book by its… or maybe do.
Have you ever judged a book by its cover? I absolutely have. There is power in visual communication and I admit to having been fooled by a misleading cover or two. Either that or I’ve found it was better than its cover suggested, or that it was not quite on-genre with its cover. Still, I tend to shop by cover design. Someday, maybe I will learn.
Let me know how you curate your old friends? I wonder, is anyone giving up all of their physical books in favor of e-books? I find I cannot and I regret having purchased some books in e-format and found myself wanting their company on my keeper shelves.
I’ll post an update once the shelves are moved, trimmed, painted and sorted with my freshly curated library. And in the meantime, I hope you find time to read a book, maybe curate and share a friend or two, and make some art!