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Purge December 3, 2008

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

Over the past few days, I’ve finally gone through the books that I keep in two closets, on shelves.

Why in closets? Why on shelves?

Well, I live in this old Victorian house. And until I moved into it, I didn’t realize that the thing is all windows and doors. Wall space is at a premium, and the sole small bookcases are located in my office and Tim’s. There isn’t space for a bookcase anywhere else. And, truth be told, the majority of our books are of the cheap paperback variety—not the kind that need to be displayed (although I admit that, when visiting another’s home, it is intriguing to glance surreptitiously at their exposed spines).

The closets (like the attic) are beginning to get out of control.

The first book closet also houses presents and wrapping paper. It was when I was taking holiday stock on Sunday that I hit clutter saturation and began the book purge.

Tim happily joined in.

It’s hard. Even if a book is worth nothing monetarily, even if it is totally replaceable, even though the chances of you ever cracking it open again are next to nil, still . . . a book can be tough to let go of. This book, for example, reminds you of your supercerebral and -sexual college days. This one has great photos. This one was a gift from a beloved friend.

The book/gift/games/storage closet was the nonfiction closet. Just this afternoon I moved onto fiction (aka the guest room closet). Fiction can be even harder to purge. This book includes a New Yorker story you remember reading on the subway, then the bus, on a long, hot DC commute. This one is signed by the author. (You don’t really like it as much as her/his other stuff, but still. Can’t toss that one.) This one is a classic. (What if you need to read this classic again? You don’t want to buy this classic again.)

There are 128 books sitting in my hallway. Some of them are really good.

Soon I will go through them. To be certain. To categorize them. I will see how many of them I can’t part with after all. I will try to think of people to give them to. I will call a few friends and let them take a look.

Then, someday, I will cart them off to the annual-book-sale stash. I will hope that their time as strays won’t last long. I will hope, in their hearts, they’ll forgive me.


1. Cedar Waxwing - December 3, 2008

This sounds so familiar. We do this every so often, and it is actually painful. I buy too many books when I should just use the library (ordering something from Amazon is easier than getting in the car and driving to the library).

So, I feel for you.

Hmm, can I come by and look at your pile?

2. Mali - December 3, 2008

You are brave. Books are so precious, I hate to purge them. But I’m better at it than D. If he had his way the entire house would be covered in bookcases, full of his books. Fortunately I find belonging to a bookclub means I don’t buy as many books.

3. Craig (Maito Sewa Yoleme) - December 4, 2008

I don’t understand this post. At all. Purging…? Getting rid of…? BOOKS???

Utterly unthinkable. This house will fall into a sinkhole of its own making, dragged down by the weight all its books, before anyone gets rid of a single page. Once a book crosses the threshold, it becomes a permanent fixture.

4. indigo bunting - December 4, 2008

CW: Please, please come check out this pile. (Our libraries are small, I read books very slowly as a result of reading all day long for work, so I never use libraries.)

M: You don’t buy as many books as a result of the book club? Because you get that book from the library, or what? (We end up buying the books…of course, nearby libraries would only have a copy or two if we were lucky.)

C(MSY): Expect several very large, heavy boxes at your doorstep. And don’t be upset if you see something that makes you think, “Hey! I gave her that!”

5. Helen - December 4, 2008

Purging is painful when it’s in progress, but feels so good afterwards…

6. Adam Byrn Tritt - December 4, 2008

I have just gone through this and wanted to write about it was unable to get a handle on it.

I just hit a point, a month ago, where I wanted the books out. The books I don’t read, the books I have in piles waiting to be read. Along with them would go the pressure to read and the feeling that, if I was not reading, I was falling short of my potential for learning and doing a disservice to the world by letting the collective IQ drop.

Eight bookcases. I told friends and they told friends. Come on in. These go and these don’t. But, if I like you, and you want a book, once it’s in your hand I’ll likely not tell you no regardless of whether I planned on getting rid of it or not.

Eight bookcases, Double rows on the shelves and stacked two high. Four rows of books on some shelves.

Out went the Psych books. The Sociology books. Nearly the entire Golden Age Sci Fi I have been collecting since I was twelve. Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke. Straight through to Vonnegut and Zelazny. Most of my religion books. My collections of plays. Literature in general.

I kept poetry, shamanism, some essay collections and some commentary. I kept certain writers, Adams, Bryson, Harden, Lightman.

Two complete Shakespeare collections. Gone.

Folks offered me cash for the whole lot but, when I explained how I was not getting rid of all of them, rescinded the offer as I was being too difficult to deal with.

Now, there are only three bookcases left and one not even full, no double stacked, no two high. It was hard and now, much better somehow.

But the room is a bit less well insulated.

7. Lynda - December 4, 2008

There is something intriguing about other people’s books. Although I have way too many in my own door & window laden Victorian house (many of them inherited by the previous owner), I always love to shop for new books.

Perhaps I could come over & browse one day…

Would it comfort you to know that they are safe-and-sound right next door? You will have visting rights, of course.

8. Mali - December 4, 2008

IB: Our book club works like a tiny rotating library in a box. We don’t all read the same books at the same time. So we buy some books when we host the group, then next time someone else buys the books, and we share and recommend, and read at our own pace/mood/situations etc. Eventually after a year or so we’ve all read the same books.

9. Eulalia (Lali) Benejam Cobb - December 4, 2008

Indigo, when you’re done, will you come by and do the same at our house? We’re drowning! And Ed doesn’t want to throw ANYTHING away.

10. laurie - December 5, 2008

this sounds like heaven to me.

i once rented a small apartment that had tons of cabinet space in the kitchen. i’m not much of a cook, so you know what i used the kitchen cabinets for. yep. books.

11. Susan - December 7, 2008

I’ll bet everyone who reads this can relate to it. I’ve had several purges, which seriously offended a friend of mine. (“How could you??”) But this is someone who buys books knowing full well he will never so much as open them. I, at least, operate under the delusion that I will read them cover to cover.

The first purge got me started selling books on eBay. I sell those that will command a price big enough to justify the time spent on it (well, not really), and donate the others to the animal shelter thrift shop or the library book sale.

Of course, while I’m at those two places, I buy more.

12. Joya - December 7, 2008

Part of me is shocked(!) by the thought of getting rid of books. Oh, sacrilege!

But the practical part of me is simply nodding in understanding and agreement. I’ve purged my collections several times. When I moved back from Hawaii, in fact, I gave away all but a precious few because they would have been too heavy and too expensive to ship. I had to leave behind so many wonderful books that time– the complete works of Arthur Rimbaud (introduced to me by our dear friend Del) and Lewis Carroll (I have a bit of an Alice obsession) and William Blake (crazy but lovely). Amazing fantasy books by Meredith Ann Pierce, Peter S. Beagle, Joan D. Vinge. All of Chuck Palahniuk. My collection of trashy bodice-rippers (my shameful little indulgence). One that I meant to take with me was a poetry collection by Ishmael Reed that contained one of my favorite poems ever, but I must have accidentally taken it to the second hand bookstore with the rest because I never saw it again.

Okay, now I’m making myself sad…

13. bettyslocombe - December 8, 2008

I can never work out whether I’ve got rid of them or just lost them. As long as those forty or fifty that travel like talismans with me are still there……mostly by or about Orwell…I’m sure you have your own set.

14. indigo bunting - December 8, 2008

Not only is it painful to get rid of my own books, but apparently it is also painful for me to read about all of you giving up some of yours (Adam, Joya!). Rather fascinating, if you ask me, and there is something almost hopeful that in this day and age we still attach to books.

Last night two people took away some of those books. Lynda, whenever you want to come over and take a look, please do!

Susan, I try not to let myself go to the book sale that I sometimes donate books to. No one gets out without practically replacing. That’s OK, if you just want to share books. But if you have no room…

Mali, your book group sounds utterly different from any around here, and I’m fascinated.

15. Deloney - December 12, 2008

Away for a week and so much happens. I purge daily of course because that’s what I do for a living. But as I’ve mentioned before, I have a bedside bookshelf and those are the books I won’t part with.

16. indigo bunting - December 12, 2008

Del: Oh, for a look at those spines!

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