Friday, 5 March 2010

The Great Book Sorting

A warning: Don’t come and stay with us if you have a book phobia. Our spare bedroom has three walls of bookshelves – floor to ceiling. There isn’t a room in the  house, except the bathroom, that doesn’t have books in it.  We’re trying to reduce the number (and sheer volume) of books. A rough count shows well over 3,000 and I’ll swear they are breeding.

We can dispose of technical books which are out of date, of course – and don’t they go out of date quickly! Programming in Basic, anyone?. I don’t want my management or psychology text books anymore, so off to Oxfam they go! But we both have a love of history and travel and write about those subjects so we’re a bit leery of discarding any on those subjects. I love my cookery books and do use them so they must stay.

Then there are the books that have meaning in their own right. Do we discard Alan’s Biggles books? My Chalet School books? What about Swallows and Amazons? No way! Those books are our comfort blankets; they hold our memories; they hold our past – just seeing them on the shelves is enough to send us back into that golden glow of never-was that seems to hang onto everything we remember from childhood.

Over the years, we have read the biographies of the authors of these old books and it gave a different perspective to them – they are the more precious for knowing the background. We got into a conversation about Romany with Joy a few weeks ago and have just lent her some of them, which she is enjoying, having heard him on BBC radio in the ‘30s and ‘40s. If we hadn’t kept them through all the house moves, we, and she, would have been the poorer.

At the moment, we’re at the stage where things are worse than when we started, piles of books, boxes and crates everywhere. Books are moving down two flights of stairs from the spare bedroom to my study as I sort and winnow. And now the sun is shining and our good intentions are flying out the window – as books fly in because we’re still buying books.

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