Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Joys of Moving a Home Library

So, I'm moving out of state in less than two weeks, and for people like me, the big question is: How do I move my home library? Do I just clean out the deadwood, or do I get hard-nosed and cut even more? And what exactly qualifies a book for cutting? (Or, as those glass half-full people might put it, What makes a book likely to enrich the local public library or thrift store?)

I have included a few photos of my current library... Just kidding. Can you tell which one is Karl Lagerfeld's? (I have this suspicion that if he ever removes his sunglasses, his face will fall off.) Does he read his books, truly? Er--for that matter, do I read mine?

In case my blog doesn't give it away, I'll confess this very minute that I'm a bonafide book hoarder. (As opposed to a book horder, which means belonging to a tribe that rides down out of the yellow Southern California mountains yelling in some strange Tolkienesque dialect on the way to raiding libraries of their treasures, things like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Hilary McKay's latest, and every Terry Pratchett book ever written...)

The questions I ask as I try really hard to divest myself of a few of these books are as follows:

1. Do I love this book? Am I ever going to reread it?
2. Can I use this book with my students? Would I hand it to a kid with a huge smile on my face?
3. Is it worth blogging about at some point?
4. Is my reluctance to let it go a result of generalized book greed, or is it truly this particular book I can't live without?

And then there's the more existential question: I've read this; now why do I also feel compelled to own it?

Of course, book owning feels to me like surrounding myself with friends. I suppose that makes it a variation on the security blanket. (Remember Linus?) It's pretty much like the way going to a library or bookstore makes me happy when I've had a bad day. Which makes me sound like an addict. But I suspect books as drugs are way better than, say, drugs as drugs.

Even as I packed the boxes, I came across treasured friends. I tried to resist the temptation to stop packing and read them, but I failed more than once and just decided to rejoice in renewing my acquaintance with some favorites.

I was also reminded of just how crazy I am about poetry! My culling efforts dropped significantly when I went through the poetry shelves.

By the way, when the going has gotten tough over the past few weeks, I've sat down and reread books from my Discworld collection. Because if Sam Vimes can do it, whatever hard thing he's being called upon to do, so can I. And the humor keeps me going, too.

Now, I know some of you can relate. One of the guys who came from my church today to help my brother load the truck said knowingly of his own library, "I don't like to go below 2,000."

(Another guy remarked, "All of this will be on Kindle eventually." I plugged my ears.)

What about you? Do you have more than 1,000 books? Maybe even more than 3,000? Have you ever had to transport your home library? How did you survive? Did you cull? And especially: How do you feel about books? Are you In Love?

Note: Charlotte brings up a good point in the comments. Some books are out-of-print and are hard to replace. So if you like them and they're out of print, you might want to hang onto them rather than have to attempt to track them down again later and possibly fail.


Tabatha said...

This is something I've been thinking about, so thanks for the questions to consider as we decide what to keep! We need to cull because our bookshelves are overflowing (we have eight bookcases). I just want to be able to fit everything on our bookcases, but we have an extra bookcase's worth just lying around.
Good luck with your move!

Bigfoot said...

I accumulate a lot of books, but I kind of like passing them along after I’ve read them. My problem is that I take in books faster than I read them.

There are some books I would never get rid of: favorite reference books; my Calvin and Hobbes and Snoopy books; my Donald Duck comic books; a fair number of beloved novels. For instance, they’ll have to pry my copies of HOLES and CATCH-22 out of my cold, dead hands. If possible, I’ll take those to the other side.

Charlotte said...

We have lots of books that it would be very hard to replace, and which aren't in libraries. And I still hold out hope that someday I will be Caught Up, and be able to go back to being an inveterate re-reader....

Good luck with the move! Just don't fill the book boxes too full.

Kate Coombs said...

Tabatha--I culled my collection about two years ago, but moving raises the issue yet again! (Plus I've managed to acquire more since then. Mysteriously.)

Bigfoot--Ha! Yes, certain books that are beyond significant in one's life. I would concur that Calvin and Hobbes are irreplaceably funny.

Charlotte--Oh, good point. I'll add a note to the post about out-of-print books. I use banker's boxes for the books; they're sturdy and fairly small, which helps with the weight issue.

Catherine said...

I have accumulated a large library over the years and then I accumulated a man who accumulates books. Add to that that we've moved twice in the past three years and are looking to move again next year. My advice: Save those packing boxes!

Sondy said...

I love this! You're a kindred soul. I currently have 12 bookcases full of books & lots more in assorted piles. I'm downright dangerous at ALA, though hope this time airline limitations will slow me down. Worse, I move often. Funny tho how friends who helped 2 times ago weren't available this last time! There's a great book about people like us called BIBLIOHOLISM.

Anonymous said...

I have had to move every 3-4 years my entire life. When I was a kid there were weight limits on our stuff (military rules). Books weigh a lot and so I had to adopt a mercenary attitude toward my books at a young age. I learned to not get too attached. I am just now reaching a point where I don't feel guilty for owning a growing number of books.

Anonymous said...

The moving company our (public) library hired for our move was picked primarily because they had special carts just for moving books! We took all the books right off the shelves, put them on the carts, and then unloaded them directly onto the new shelves! (They were still hopelessly out of order, but I suspect they started that way). I am sure there are moving companies who have this option available for private libraries, too!

But that doesn't help answer the question (unless, DON'T WORRY! Keep ALL of them! counts as an answer). I can't help! I have lugged all my childhood and adolescent books with me to every non-college-dorm place I have lived since I moved out of my parents'! I, um, just packed a lot of boxes. And I'm an annoying packer who has to pack like I'm playing a game of Tetris, which meant that of course all the books had to be RESORTED into author or subject order once I got to a place (because of COURSE they have to be).

Of course, nowadays that I have to pay bills and feed a family, I'm accumulating less NEW books. Those I buy or ask others to buy me are ALWAYS those that I feel I want to read again. I'll also swipe donations from the library sale if I feel they're classics that I ought to have, particularly to share with my kids. LAtely the only books I've weeded out and donated were duplicates from when my husband's and my collections combined (and even there I still have some duplicates, because he's got this abridged Huckleberry Finn that's been dedicated lovingly to him by his grandmother, and I've got the real unabridged one in beat-up paperback; we also have a beautiful one-volume Lord of the Rings, but I thought it was necessary to save my three-volume paperbacks for convenience's sake. And e-Reader people, seriously, SOME OF US ARE POOR. WHY DON'T YOU FIGURE THAT OUT).

Speaking obliquely of Lord of the Rings, I feel I need to point out, after reading you gush about Sam Vimes, that my son is named after HIM, too. He's just MOSTLY named after Sam Gamgee. Actually, he's named after Sam Gamgee, and a bunch of other Awesome Sams of Fiction sealed the deal.

/end long comment.

Anonymous said...

I have to move soon and it is haaaaaaaaaarrrd to throw away books! My immense worry is that I'll cull a book and then really, really want it again later. So far this has never happened but only because I've been cautious -- I nearly culled The Secret History and The Haunting of Hill House a few years ago, and it turns out both those books are awesome. Ugh. I need all my books.

Laurie Brown said...

I have no idea how many books I have, but it's well over 1,000 and possibly over 3,000. When I moved 1,500 miles almost 30 years ago, the boxes of books took the first 4' of the truck, packed floor to ceiling and side to side, and I have way, way more now than I did then.

But I have started trying to force some sense into myself. I no longer automatically keep every book I read. I have to ask myself, as you are saying here, the questions of why I am keeping it. And I'm giving away more than I am keeping now. (note: 99.9% of the books I buy come from yard sales, FOL book sales, and early reader editions, so I'm not spending a whole lot on my habit). I hope to whittle down the giant pile of unread fiction at some point before I die.

Nonfiction I tend to keep around. Not that I'll ever need it, but I'm having more trouble with it.

I love books. I love the smell of them, the feel of them. The batteries don't run out, I can take them on a hike or to the lake and not worry about ruining them (they only cost .50 cents!). If I need calming, sitting with books, just going through them and browsing, soothes me. The library is like a jewelry store for me- so much treasure to look through! I broke my foot a month ago, and while I didn't go anywhere else, I found I HAD to go there, hobbling around.

I hope I never have to move again, in large part because the books are overwhelming!

Kate Coombs said...

Catherine--"then I accumulated a man who accumulates books" What a great line! Box advice duly noted.

Sondy--Oh, good; I'm not alone! My "assorted piles" sure added up...

Brandy, you are one tough chick, though I guess you've had to be. Perhaps you'll inspire me to find something of a happy medium. More than I've had so far, anyway.

Amy--I did see this move as an opportunity to ditch some books I'm not truly in love with. On the other hand, there are a couple of books I own two copies of just because I'm crazy about them, though I'd say heirloom status is a much better reason. (And let's hear it for great Sam's, fictional or otherwise!)

Jenny--See my handy questions above! Other than the deadwood issue, I figure it's basically worth it to pay extra to keep your library intact. There are Those who don't get it, but then, there are those of us who do!

Laurie--That's it exactly! Books just make me so happy. Trees do, too, but not because they're related. :)

And by the way, here's another issue--what about when your books turn yellow with age and get all crackly paged? I've noticed it's the cheap/small paperbacks that are most likely to do that. (Thinking of scrap-booking, I assume the high acid content is the problem.)

LinWash said...

I can definitely relate (and good luck on your upcoming move by the way). I had to ask myself those questions when I moved, seeing as how I had just about all of the Discworld books (which I still love). I had to sell bags of books or donate some to the library. But I haven't given up my Discworld books. :-)

KateCoombs said...

Thanks, Lin. Very wise of you to hang onto your Discworld collection! --Kate

Carol said...

I came over to read Poetry Friday and somehow ended up here. We moved last summer. The books took me the longest to pack and are still not all unpacked- organizing my study is next week's project! I'm trying hard to not buy so many books, to put adult books on the kindle, etc., but oh my gosh it's hard! Good luck! Not sure where you are headed, but if you pass through Denver and have time, I would love to meet you!

KateCoombs said...

Ha. My sister said, "Wait till you have to unpack!" I asked her very kindly not to bring that up just yet.

I will be living in the Salt Lake City area, and I have a cousin I've never met in Colorado, so maybe someday... :)