In addition to being an obsessive reader, I’m also an obsessive book hoarder. As in, I have hundreds of books I will probably never read again, but I can’t bring myself to give them away or sell them or recycle them. Maybe it’s because my maternal grandmother has an art book collection that takes up most of her downstairs wall space in the form of tomes squeezed into full-to-bursting bookshelves. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, and I wouldn’t want to do with someone else’s book what I hope no one is doing with my book. So as you can probably imagine, our bookshelves look a little something like this (except less color coordinated):
While I implied above that book hoarding might be a family trait, it would only be on my mother’s side. My dad lets books slip into and out of his life – reading them and then passing them along – unless they are some of the few he’s happy to read again and again. The bookshelf area of his home is, as a consequence, tiny, but size doesn’t mater. And yet, I think that’s why I’m so hesitant to part with my books – even the ones that haven’t brought me much pleasure other than hastening the passage of time. I think I am afraid of someone coming into my home, seeing no bookshelves, and assuming that I don’t read much.
But even this strikes me as odd. Because the truth is that some people don’t read much for pleasure anyway, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They just enjoy other things. So why does the idea of someone pegging me for a non-reader make me feel so queasy, and furthermore prevent me from de-cluttering our right now extremely cluttered finished basement (which it should be noted is home to walls of bookshelves)? At this point in my life, I’m visiting the library for books more often than buying them, so it’s not like I’m adding to my collection. I’d wager that most of the books on those shelves have been with me since just after college. Some of them are even textbooks!
Do you, lovely readers, hold on to relatively unimportant books with a similar zeal? What’s keeping you from parting with them?