Book Mountains

A perpetual task is sometimes compared to painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. When you finally finish, it is time to begin again. This is how I feel at times about keeping my growing collection of books in some sort of order. I go through phases of being Very Stern with myself about adding anything, and have tried approaches including ‘one in, one out’ but this never lasts. I wouldn’t say that I’m addicted to buying books, but they do provide me with inordinate joy and satisfaction and it is only when the piles begin to totter that I tend to go through and have a good clean out.

I have started a methodical sorting, the first big clean out since I moved here. Books have left the house in the past four years in spits and spurts, but not quite on this scale. It has been good to group together books by the same author and books of similar themes. The non-fiction books are generally kept separately, and I try to keep my extensive collection of short story books together, although they do seem to flare up in other spots without much encouragement.

A friend’s passing comment about minimalism tripped the current clean out, as it coincided with an end-of-the-year-and-start-of-new-year compulsion to tidy things up a bit. On a show about living with less stuff, there was discussion around emotional attachments to collecting things which is fine if it brings you pleasure, but not so good if it is just for the sake of keeping up with the everyone else. Whilst the books in my life usually aren’t purchased to impress anyone else, quite a few are bought on a whim or are read and are no longer required. Better to let them move on into someone else’s life.

A few years back I won a large box of new books in a competition in a bookshop and I have carted these books with me, reluctant to let them go as they were new. And free! Never mind that the books haven’t been read as they weren’t of interest to me. I did give a few away – it was a large box of books – but now I am finally ready to let the rest of them go. One of them was a beautiful book about a collection of Dior dresses with exquisite drawings and a felt dress on the cover. I’m sure someone else will actually appreciate it, rather than keep it and never open its pages.

How would you manage mountains of books that need sorting?

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13 thoughts on “Book Mountains

    • Thank you for the link, and I can see merit in buying only cookbooks in book format. I have started to despatch my no longer needed books to charity as I’m sure they will find good homes elsewhere. The local council also has a recycled shed where surplus books can be taken, and you can browse and re-home books of interest that you find there too.

  1. I think books lend themselves to a more personal relationship than other items which makes it hard to let them go. I have to be careful, our house is on the tight aside without me filling it full of books and I have a daughter who lives them as much as me.
    My approach last year was to buy my books second hand, read them and simply give them away. Sometimes this was to charity but I tried to give them to people whom I thought would appreciate them. It worked quite well but I still ended up with a net gain over the year.

    Nice post.

    • Thank you for sharing your approach to managing the acquisition and release of books, and I like the idea of passing them on where possible to someone else who might appreciate them. You are right, too, about the personal nature of the relationship with a book. There is an investment of sorts in characters or themes with some books. There are books that carry a memory of where I bought them or read them, and these are a bit harder to let go of sometimes. There are some which will be kept, faithful friends ready for when I need to visit with them again. Thanks again for your response.

  2. Some books are keepers and I agree some, like children’s picture books, cookbooks and photography books will always be treasured in hardback, but I buy less and less fiction in print format these days.
    I smiled at your analogy with painting the ‘Sydney Harbour Bridge’ I have been lucky enough to see that bridge but where I come from the ‘Forth Bridge’ over the Firth of Forth in Scotland is our go-to bridge for this saying! Funny how such things are adapted.

  3. Pingback: Blue Mountains Book Settings | jml297

  4. I have to confess, books are like friends. I just have a hard time letting them go whether I rescued them from a bookshelf in Barnes & Noble or a pile of dusty books at a church sale. Books that others give me that I never requested nor want don’t enjoy that privilege. I’ve spent hours with each book like an old friend… and occasionally I revisit them. But now you have me looking over my shoulder literally, wondering which books need to find a new home. I guess we both know what I’ll be doing the rest of the day!

    • What a lovely image – books as friends. You are right, especially when I think about the time spent with some of them, the journeys they’ve taken me on and the lessons that I’ve learned. And, like friends, some leave a bigger impact than others. I am still sorting through my books, room by room, and occasionally I get caught up reading a line, then a paragraph, then a page. Slow going at times! Thank you for sharing your bookish thoughts.

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