Renovation nation; writers on reading

Books, should we chuck 'em or store 'em, asks Alex May at The Sydney Morning Herald Blogs: Renovation Nation (thanks to Karen M for the link). Alex is of the "chuck 'em" fraternity, giving her read books over to friends, charity shops or the recycling bin. I'm of the same persuasion these days (though I admit to stopping short of the recycling bin). I've been through so many phases of keeping every book I've ever read, stacking up groaning piles in the attic, struggling with every flat or house move…I suppose that when you get to a certain age, you know you can never read them all again so it just does not make sense to keep them all.

My solution is just to keep a few* favourites (I'm unmoved by all the comments to Alex May's piece), but to log online all that I've read so that I can go back to them again if I want. These days, it is so cheap to obtain a book on the internet as well as to log it there, that there seems little point in keeping them all. If you kept all your books and you were me, you'd increase your library by about 10 books a week, and if you had two children as I do, they would too; pretty soon you'd have nowhere to live. Future generations probably won't have this problem as they'll all have e-readers (or won't be able to read).

Even if you have the space, is it even desirable to keep all your books? In another link sent by Karen, Henrietta Rose-Innes of the Times of South Africa writes about the dark side of reading. "Bookish people drolly claim to be addicted. I think, in some cases, this is literally true. I’d like to know the brain chemistry involved — what pleasure centres ignite when you part the pages of a new book and sniff the ink. It seems those neural pathways are laid down young: you’re hooked early or not at all. And from that point on, you need to keep feeding the habit with progressively larger doses of word, no matter how cut and contaminated." 

*Even so, my definition of "few" requires ever-expanding shelf space!


4 thoughts on “Renovation nation; writers on reading

  1. Just before any house move I fill my car to the roof with books and drive to the local library, disgorging them there with the instruction that they should take the lot. If I want a book badly enough I can always order it for the library — this has never happened. Only in one or two cases have I regretted doing this. Last time I did it with CDs — having ripped my collection to a spare hard-disc drive first.

  2. This is the plan: I will be up not long after dawn tomorrow ruthlessly bagging books for the charity shop. These will be mainly PBs, but there may be some HBs, especially on topics that no longer interest me. I have some books that I collect, some are investments, and I will never part with these. Ditto the ones that fall into the category “sentimental reasons”. With Kindle and the rest, I suspect some rare books will only increase further in value in the years to come. Well, I hope so!

  3. The worst part are the books you’ve kept for 20 years, will never open again, but don’t know what to do with. I stopped teaching history 20 years ago, still have the text books that now would not galvanise any interest in any student, no second hand bookshop would take them, but putting them into the recycling bin is just beyond me.
    These days I find I am moving my more recent reads on by lending them to friends with the injunction that I don’t mind how long they keep them, selling them at garage sales, or mooching them through BookMooch.
    There are still a lot of dust gatherers in my house.

  4. It’s a real problem. I confess to being a book hoarder – but the house is now full to overflowing…drastic measures may be called for!

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