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Monday, November 21, 2011

Can You Ever Own Too Many Books?

Some BooksImage by Ben Oh via Flickr

           Last Monday's post stimulated some interesting discussion about whether or not most of our writing is done in vain.   The over all consensus is that it is not so long as we enjoy what we are doing and if others derive some kind of benefit or entertainment value from what we write.   I want to write and so I do.

          Today I ask can we ever own too many books.   At what point do we have too many books?

          My wife probably is thinking that I am approaching hoarder mentality, especially where books are involved.  I haven't counted what I have in my house, but I would estimate within the view from my office desk I can see about 300 books.  Then I have several in the closet that I can't see.  In other rooms of the house there are at least another two or three hundred scattered about.  Add to that another few hundred that belong to my wife (she shouldn't be pointing at finger at me!).   And did I mention the I don't know how many hundred that are out in our garage on shelves or packed in boxes?   I even still have books from my younger days at my mother's house.

          Let's face it--I probably have more books than I will ever read in my remaining lifetime at the rate I'm reading now.   And I seem to keep acquiring more to add to the collection.

           Over the years I've amassed many of them through book club memberships, purchased several for school classes, bought them during sales like the Borders clearances, and had them given to me.  I rarely get rid of any of them because I like having a library in my home.

          Even the ones I have read I would probably not want to get rid of since I tend to forget what I read and think that I may one day read them again.   That might not be possible since I've got so many left to read for the first time.

           Maybe I have too many books.   That could probably also go for CDs, DVDs, and other recorded media.   I look around the house and see all the stuff and realize maybe we have too much of all of it.  Where does it end?

            Recently when I helped my sister move from Phoenix back to Tennessee, we loaded a rental truck with a great many things she would need in her new home and a lot of personal possessions that she wanted to keep.  The rest of what she owned she left behind to be sold by an auction company.  As I looked around the house before we left I was amazed at the sheer quantity of material goods that she and her late husband had acquired over the previous decade and a half.   Most of us own so much that is just there but rarely used for anything functional and often not even noticed that it is there.

           That is my book collection--untouched for the most part, but are there any books I would immediately want to give up?  I guess I would have to think on that for a while and it might prove to be a difficult decision.  Maybe when they start stacking up, threatening to fall over and crush me, then maybe I'm starting to own too many books.  Perhaps I need to slow down and start reading instead of accumulating.

          Do you own too many books?   What should be the point at which you stop accumulating books?   When do you decide to get rid of books?   How do you get rid of them?

          If you'd like to add more books to your collection be sure to see my post coming up on Wednesday November 23rd where I'll be talking about the big Chronicle Books Give-Away.   Oh boy!  More books.

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  1. Well - I don't know .. I'm looking at getting rid of a few of mine - I have to say I don't want to .. then there's all my mother's ... I've donated many away already .. I picked 5 yesterday .. three are going, two were interesting!

    Cheers - just simply do not know - if you've got the space - then fine, otherwise you'll need to downsize I guess .. Hilary

  2. Honestly I don't believe one can have too many books, IF they're all relevant to your interests. It's kind of counter-productive to have books if you don't enjoy them but if you do then by all means own as many as you please, honestly!

  3. I love books almost as much as I love people, but I hardly keep any. I'm constantly cycling things through and books are no different. I've found that I have recently begun to (try to) build a library on the subject of most abiding interest to me, but my habits of traveling extremely light are deeply ingrained. The only thing I've accumulated a little bit of are collectibles from the '60s, '70s and '80s but I plan to sell most of those at some point, anyway.

    It'll be interesting to see what others say. I like this question.

  4. As you know, Lee, a oh post I did last week mentioned the amount if books we have! Like you, I seem to hang onto them in thd mistaken assumption that I might one day re-read them. Then there are a great number I buy that sit waiting patiently for their turn in the queue - often ignored in favour of sone new, more interesting title. :-/
    I fooled myself into thinking that 'retirement' would see me romping through my TBR pile - but here I am, nearly a year down the line with the pile growing faster than I've been able to reduce it!
    Some days I envy those with a minimalist lifestyle, but I kinda like having my books around me - they're like part of the furniture.
    My problem iscompounded by being married to someone who I'm convinced was a squirrel in a former life - he NEVER gets rid of anything :-/

    Now, as for CDs/DVDs .......!

  5. After sixteen years working in a used book store and taking something home just about every single day, my book collection is in the thousands.

    That's a good thing and bad thing!

    I love being able to reference things that don't exist on the Internet, and many of the books I have went out of print as much as a hundred years ago. They are not replaceable.

    The down side? The piles, the stacks, the boxes, etc. Most of my shelves have double rows --I shelve smaller sized paperbacks BEHIND the Hardbacks, which often surprises people when they take a book off the shelf!

    I do try to cull them now and then, but at the rate I bring them home, it will always be expending, even with the attrition.

    Wouldn't trade (most of)them for the world.

  6. It's surprising how few books I do keep in the house. It is a small house you see. I am seriously considering a Kindle so I can store many many books in a very small object.

  7. That should be 'expanding', of course.

  8. I have thousands as well. I give some away from time to time, as gifts. [no I'm not a cheapskate.]. I wrap them in a nice piece of old fabric, an old vintage napkin [I pick them up by the scads at antique stores; they're cheap].

    it's a way of sharing a book, and giving value to things from the past. JF

  9. imagine my collection, Lee, not only that I have my old collection of the books I was buying as a teen and at college, and later on, but I also have books from my publisher, since I get five copies of every book I translate, and I've translated 24 so far :) Of course, I give away a lot of those.. but still no space for new books..

  10. NO! There is no limit to a good and beneficial book collection!

    YES! There is a lot of junk being passed off as a book. Particularly the Christian Book Stores, or as I call them Holy Hardware Stores, they carry 95% junk and very little solid, biblical, godly, and God-honoring books these days. It is all about profit.

  11. Over the years I realised there were many books that I owned that I didn't particularly like and certainly would not read again so I started giving them away to charity shops. Freed up a lot of space (for new books).

    Moody Writing
    The Funnily Enough

  12. Hilary -- Ah yes, choices--which books to get rid of. It's easy for me to agree when my wife wants to get rid of some of hers since most are in Spanish.

    Matthew-- I do have some books that I don't care about--part of having a library I guess. Those are the first to go if I am getting rid of any.

    Suze -- If I could get the right price I would probably sell a lot of my stuff that I think of as collectible. I want it to go to someone else who recognizes a value and not just throws it away.

    Sue H. -- I'd rather have books than knick-knacks and other odds and ends, but reading is such a slow process for me that I may never get through them all. The books, CDs, DVDs, and such offer a certain sense of intellectual security I suppose and I like to know they are there if I do want something special.

    Kelly -- I've got the same double and triple stacked shelf issue. A lot of things I forget that I have or don't recall where I've stored them. I've often thought of organizing it all into some sort of reference recovery system, but alas it's just another thing that takes up take that I devote to other things.

    Delores -- An ereader certainly would help in the space issue. I'm just paranoid that the electronic data could be easily lost and unrecoverable.


  13. JF -- That kind of regifting is meaningful because you are giving something of specified value if you've selected the book because you know the recipient would like it. I've received things like that and appreciated them far more than gifts just bought out of some obligatory sense.

    Dezmond -- Especially someone who teaches, such as you do, or has been a student, there is a tendency to accumulate many books. When you are offered free books it's hard to refuse, especially when it's part of your job.

    Gregg --"Good and beneficial" is an important qualifier. I have some books that I wouldn't put in that category that I keep just because I have them. Those kinds of books usually go when I'm culling the collection.

    Mood -- I have been known to give away books of that nature in that way. Usually I don't spend the time to make those decisions and the books stay on the shelves.


  14. I hoard my books like a dragon with gold. *laughs* But even I have realized that there is such a thing as too many books. I find I buy less and less paperbooks and more ebooks. They do take up much less space. Perhaps when I die, I can give my collection away. I can't see parting with most of them before then.

  15. My husband and I recently started de-cluttering our house, and that included out bookshelves. I have a ton of unread books which I admit, I love hoarding. :)

    But, my system for keeping books is this - if I really liked it or loved it, it earns a place on the shelves. If I only liked it okay, out it goes (to the library bookstore, etc.) So far, it's working out pretty good. :)

  16. In the past, several times I was made to get rid of all my books. It hurt, but now I'm usually quite good at donating the ones I didn't enjoy, or passing good ones to my kids.

  17. I have way too many books, too. Luckily, I lost a bunch when I moved or I would not have the space for all of them.

  18. Lee-

    Growing up, one of my mother's mantras was "never throw out a book."

    It was right up there with "how can you be my son and not root for the Eagles?"

    As a result, when I arrived in Phoenix in my mid-thirties, I still had pretty much every book I'd ever owned.

    You already know about the CD's.

    For a few years, I was dating a lady back in Philadelphia, and it started looking as if I might be moving back east. Theorizing that book sould still be written in the future, I realized that I was never going to have the time to reread any of these, and started carting them to Goodwill.

    So while I have not stopped accumulating books, I have found the internal fortitude to make room for them on the shelves.

    Understand however, that I am not criticizing anyone who keeps books.

    I do, after all, own a plethora of compact discs and records.

    As long as you have the room, you can never own too many!


  19. I too own a lot of books, especially when I consider how good I am at going through and getting rid of most other things during any given year. I have finally gotten to giving away anything I have read that I am not so in love with that I must keep it. This results in most of my 'already read' books being donated or sold.
    I just love having several shelves of books to consider when I go looking to read something. It's like a travel brochure of sorts to choose from. I read quite a bit and actually cannot sleep without reading first, so I have it whittled down to only 2 big book shelves, maybe 150 books or so.
    I guess I would say that if the books are in your way and you would rather have the space to live freely in, then you have too many books and it's time to edit- literally!

  20. My overcrowded shelves tell me that I have too many books but I have a hard time letting some go. But I have started swapping books, which helps to clear out some.

  21. A couple years ago I had to help a friend clean out her dad's house when he died. To say the man was a pack rat would be too kind. After that, I had a change in attitude about my "stuff". I started getting rid of things, including books. I give them to family and friends, donate them to charity, trade them in at the half-price book store, etc. Sure, there are some I won't part with and I'm always bringing home more, but its more of a fostering arrangement now than an adoption.

  22. Cherie -- Whenever I start thinking about getting rid of something I don't know where to start.

    Madeleine -- Your systems of culling sounds like an effective one.

    Sarah -- I guess I need to become less attached to my books.

    Kirsten -- I hope the books you lost were ones that were not favorites. I think I rather decide which ones to "lose".

    Larry - You are just filling up your book space with more music. They're somewhat interchangeable in my thinking. Space is the real deciding factor for anything we collect or hoard.

    Jasmine -- So far the books aren't really in my way, though my wife sometimes thinks so. If I start whittling I guess the books in my garage will be the first to go.

    Wanda-- But if you're swapping books you're not really getting rid of any are you? But you aren't accumulating any either so that's a plus.


  23. LD -- I guess when you start looking at the other person's junk it puts your own "treasure" into perspective. Do we really need most of what we have?


  24. I'm a hoarder of cds/dvds especially those of Daniel and the musical films I enjoy watching. My book collection is limited but will watch out on Wednesday 23rd.


  25. Oh no! You can't have too many books, not ever. While the internet has changed my research strategies, I still enjoy those moments when I can go to my bookshelves and pull out one of those "old-fashioned" bound lovelies. The pages have a special aroma and the paper feels wonderful to the touch. The best part is I can move to a comfortable chair and curl up with a cup of coffee while I flip through those pages. For a while, the computer is off sulking in sleep mode.

  26. I am in the process of gathering up my old books and donating them. I need to make room for new books!
    Blessings, Joanne

  27. I don't believe in having to many books. I have just under 300 books and I am always looking to add more.

    I will never stop buying books. They are just too wonderful.

    I do think that I need to go through them, select the ones I know I will not read again, and donate them. Call me weird, but I actually do like to re-read books down the road to see what else I can gain from reading it a second time.

  28. My friends and family can put their Kindles and Nooks away this Christmas. I'm still giving books, beautiful bookmarks, and sturdy bookends as gifts.

  29. Well, when my bookcase collapsed last year I decided it was time to do some culling. i sold some, and donated a bunch more to the public library, to school libraries, and a bunch of paperbacks went to troops overseas. It was tough, but I'm glad i did it!

  30. I wonder if you really can have too many books! :) Perhaps you can; it can be a lot to manage. I've recently cleared many of mine out - to make room for more, I suppose!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  31. I own a lot of books too - but it seems not nearly as much as you! I like having a *small* library for myself, and I love the feeling of adding a new book to the collection.

    But when I see that things are just getting too messy and that I have no real "connection" with some of the books I have, I either donate them or give them away to a friend or family member who would enjoy it. I love giving books as gifts, even when it's a "just because" gift!

    Hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving!

  32. Yvonne -- I've got much music and many movies in all recorded forms and I don't have plans to get rid of any of it any time soon.

    C. Lee -- You and I are on the same page!

    Joanne -- Out with the old and in with the new can be a good thing.

    Ashley -- I have reread a few over the years, but not many since there are so many more that I have that are still unread.

    Jan -- Good for you. Technology is fine, but good old-fashioned books are a lovely gift.

    Li -- Well, that was a pretty noble thing to do, but I think you also need some new books that are sturdy.

    Karen -- The question is a personal one and the answer is different for each of us. Ask my wife--she thinks I have too many books, but I don't agree with her on that.

    Vanessa -- I got a big head start on you in book accumulating. When I was about your age my library was a lot smaller than it is now. I still had quite a bit of books then, but it could mostly be confined to one bookshelf. Books are wonderful gifts because they have a more personal connection if chosen with care.


  33. I definitely feel like I own too many books, yes. But they're funnn!

  34. When I "retired" from teaching I donated 900 books to my daughter's school. Sadly, I shouldn't have given them all up. I'm slowly rebuying a lot of them.

    I get rid of books I don't like and keep the rest. Just because I don't like something, doesn't mean someone else won't. My Dad absolutely loved a book I couldn't get through.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

    My article that mentions A-Z is getting published. I'll send you the link when it goes up. :D

  35. If I had full library room with floor to ceiling shelves, I would never lose a book. But I don't. And I hate clutter. I start a lot of books I don't finish. Those I give to the library to lend or resell in their shop. I keep most of the books by my favorite authors and other books that made an impression on me. If I read them and they didn't, they go to the library, too. Every once in a while I still have to go through what I have and make some painful decisions.

  36. I own hundreds of books and would love to own more. They are my passion and my crack.

  37. I cannot bring myself to throw away a book of any kind. I usually give the paperbacks away and keep the hardcovers for my library. For Christmas and Birthdays I generally give a good book I selected personally for the recipient.
    Nice post.
    Rob C

  38. No I don't think so. I wish I had enough money to have a library with glass fronted bookcases. I was brought up to respect books by my librarian mum. I adore my books and if i lend out any I always want them back. I have lost about 4to people who didn't respect that, and I still grieve their loss.
    Kindle just doesn't appeal to me. You can't enjoy its smell and look the same way.

  39. Trisha -- Books are fun for me just to see on the shelves, let alone peruse and read.

    Sharon -- One person's trash is another's treasure. People have given me books they loved and I ended up not liking the books and probably it's happened the other way around. I look forward to the article. I'll include the link in an A to Z Blog post.

    Carol -- I tend to avoid that decision making process as I labor over it too long.

    Melissa -- I hear you. I wouldn't mind a big house with a large library room. What a dream!

    Rob C -- It's a nice gesture to give a meaningful gift like a book--and you can sign it too with a dedication they'll remember.

    Madeleine -- I usually don't lend out books unless it's to my middle daughter who always returns them. I've lost some treasured books to friends who were not particularly responsible. It told me something about them.


  40. Nope, there is no such thing as owning too many books. Earlier in the year when I had to buy another bookshelf, I was beginning to think there might come a time I'd have to cull some of the books, but then I bought a kindle ;)

  41. That's quite an impressive collection. My library is quite small and I can't throw any away. Do you think books will go the way of records and videotapes?

  42. Lynda -- A kindle certainly makes a book collection more manageable.

    Buck-- I hope books don't become obsolete or a thing of the past. Records and videotapes are outdated technological storage media. I don't think you can categorize books the same way. Books have a substance and tangible nature that digital storage cannot provide.


  43. No such thing as too many books, though my hubby would disagree... he keeps reminding me how our bookshelves are bursting and that I have too many... my answer... let's get another bookshelf:)

  44. Sadly yes. We're moving this weekend and I've discovered there is a limit to the number of books you can carry.

  45. Never! I don't care what my husband says! We've got a couple thousand and counting... I love being able to look up whatever I need to and reread whenever I want, all within the confines of my house.

  46. TF -- My wife says the same thing that your husband does.

    Maurice--Yes, moving can certainly put our possessions into perspective.

    Deniz -- You've expressed my sentiments as well. It's nice to have ones own library.


  47. My husband would say you can never have too many....I on the other hand, think we should get rid of the ones we have before we get new ones. To which he replies, "But then I'll never have my library." To which I reply, "And?"
    But I don't like the new ebook, Kindle, Nook crap. I'm not there yet. I still like to hold a good book and the smell of the new (or used) pages. Oh, how hard it is to move with the times. (Sigh.)


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