Friday, August 17, 2012

The Book Problem

by Sheila Connolly

I know—you've heard it before.  Too many books, too little space.  But since I could no longer walk across the floor—heck, I couldn't even see the floor—in the so-called office, I knew it was time to take drastic action.

Of course I gave this much thought, and I came to a realization:  this house does not like books.  Why do I say that?  Because there is no room for bookshelves, or at least, not if I want any other furniture, like to sit on.  What's the problem?  No wall space.

I live in a stately Victorian house with a whole lot of doors and windows—and when I say windows, I mean six-foot windows that begin about two feet from the floor.  Front parlor:  two windows, two sliding doors, each six feet wide.  Back parlor:  three windows, the aforesaid sliding door, two regular doors (side by side, for some reason—you have multiple choices about how to go from any room to the next).  Dining room:  three windows, five doors, fireplace.  Kitchen:  three windows, five doors, and appliances.  Net result:  no space for bookshelves. Upstairs is just as bad.

I am not giving up my books.  Well, not all of them.  Several years ago we built an entire wall of shelves in the office, and they are now filled three deep.  I had not seen the books on the back layer for years until this great purge.  Mysteries take up fully half of the shelves, with the collection of Golden Age mysteries in the rearmost layer.  I'm keeping those.

Then comes contemporary mystery fiction:  books by my friends and co-bloggers; books by writers I truly admire, whose books I will buy no matter what.  (And I even have two shelves of my very own!)  I've been doing triage there, and my local library will be happy (I think I'm up to four boxes for them, and I'm not done yet).

So I filled in the extra space with
Agatha Christie books--hey, we have
the same publisher, don't we?

The other half of the bookshelves:  classic literature, including a chunk of '70s women's fiction I refuse to part with.  I'm seriously considering dumping the romance (where I tried unsuccessfully to fit in when I first started writing), not because they're bad books, but because I have to prioritize, and the mysteries come first.

That doesn't even touch the reference section.  Since I'm writing three different series, each has its own section, both historical and contemporary.  For the coming Irish series I've been trying to catch up with contemporary Irish crime fiction, which doesn't always make it to the US (save for Tana French, whose books I love), and then there's all the Irish history that I never learned in school.  And Irish poetry, and Irish language books.  For the others, there are books about Philadelphia history and society, and books about raising apples, and…

And don't forget the genealogy library—and genealogy is a thread that runs through all my books, so how could I get rid of those?

The reality is, unless I live to be 107 I will never have time to reread all these books, no matter how much I love them.  Why do I keep them?  Because they're old friends.  We've been through a lot together.  I'll admit that one of my newer criteria is, if I pick up a book from my shelf and leaf through it, and don't remember a single thing about it, it can go.  But most of those have been weeded out long ago.

The books that remain comfort me.  I've met many of the authors now, and a good number I call friends.  I'm proud to find myself among them on my shelves.  I'm keeping them—now that I've bought (and all but filled) another 48 feet of shelf space!

Any bets on how long that space will last?

1 comment:

The Cat Bastet said...

LOL! Sheila, there is NEVER enough room for bookcases. Every wall of our house (except the living room, where the fireplace and piano take up the walls) is full of bookcases -- and we still have books on the floor, in the garage in boxes, etc.

Thinning the book herd is hard for two bibliophiles, but it's time to make the collections more manageable. Unless we add an addition to house. Hmm....

Cathy AJ