Christina here. When I was young, I dreamed of having my own library. The old-fashioned kind, of course, with built-in shelves in the Gothic style and special ladders for climbing up to reach the top. Perhaps even a double-height room with a little balcony running round the top where you could walk around to peruse those shelves. It has to be the ultimate fantasy for a booklover and I can’t help but picture the library in the Disney film Beauty and the Beast – just perfect!
(There is a list of five real life libraries here that would suit me just fine, although with slightly more realistic expectations, my ideal is the one at Saltram House, a National Trust Property in Devon).
My library was going to be very specific though, not like the general one downtown. It would be specially curated to contain only romantic fiction, some historical fact/biographies, possibly a few thrillers, and coffee table books, including those relating to my favourite artists. And the romantic books had to all have Happy-Ever-After endings – no sad ones allowed. No Gone With the Wind (although I might make an exception for that one as it’s a classic), absolutely no Tess of the D’Urbervilles and no Thorn Birds. And yes, even if I hadn’t read the books added to that library, I would have checked the ending of each and every one just to make sure.
I started collecting books early on, asking for them at Christmas and for every birthday. Over time, I have built up a library of sorts and I now have hundreds of books all over the house. There are shelves in every nook and cranny, especially since my husband is also a booklover who collects his own preferred genres. Occasionally there are even books in piles on the floor. I don’t have the Gothic library I dreamed of – I’d need the stately home for that and let’s face it, that’s never going to happen unless I win the Lottery – but I probably have enough content to fill an entire room. All with the requisite HEA endings.
But here’s the thing – there are quite a few books there that I haven’t read yet and many I don’t even envisage wanting to read. They may have caught my fancy with their blurb at some point and I bought them (or asked for them as presents), or they might be books I’ve been given as freebies at conferences. I’d never refuse a book that sounds promising – who would? And yet, I’m starting to doubt that I’ll ever get around to reading them. So should I really keep them? Is that library ever going to materialise?
As a true booklover, I hardly dare whisper that question, but it’s one I’m increasingly asking myself. Perhaps I’m having a book-related midlife crisis? Or have I grown more pragmatic with age? There does come a point where youthful dreams become just that – a chimera, impossible to reach. And there is no doubt I have grown more realistic in my goals in recent years.
As part of that process, my husband and I have been talking about downsizing. It’s bound to happen sooner or later, and if/when that time comes, I won’t be able to take all the books with me. Unless I leave out a lot of furniture and other useful things instead, but that’s probably not a good idea. So I’ve been thinking that I should start the cull now. Go through every bookshelf and take a good, hard look at each book and decide if I really NEED to keep it. Am I ever going to read it? Or if I already have, am I likely to read it again? Did I love it so much I can’t possibly let go of it? Is the author a favourite, a friend or someone I admire? Depending on the answers to those questions, there are probably loads of books that could be let go. Books others might enjoy instead of them sitting here gathering dust on my shelves in pursuit of a silly dream.
I know the Wenches have talked about this before (Nicola and Anne when she was moving house recently) and at the time I was thinking NO WAY! I’m not letting a single book leave these premises unless it’s one I absolutely hate. And yet, I’m slowly changing my mind. There seems no point in hanging on to them just for the sake of it.
Being surrounded by books you love is comforting if you’re a bookworm, and the ability to just grab a favourite off the shelf and dip into the bits you love best is soothing. I can’t imagine living in a home without books, but having only those I genuinely enjoy seems the best option. I recognise that I have hoarding tendencies (not just with books, but lots of other items) and one day my long-suffering children will be left with the task of sorting out the mess. It would be a kindness to help them by reducing the number slightly, don’t you think?
It's strange how some of us are so keen to hoard things, to keep hold of as many objects as possible, while others feel no materialistic ties. I wish I was the kind of person who could live a spartan lifestyle, in a minimalistic apartment with stark décor and just the odd objet d’art, but I’m not. My nature is to love owning stuff, surrounding myself with it, and arranging it into organised chaos. Still, there comes a time when enough is enough. So I will tackle this, probably in the next few weeks. Well, very soon anyway. In the meantime, I’ve just ordered two more books …
Do you keep too many books or are you ruthless? If so, how do you decide which books to get rid of? And do you dream of owning a library too or is it just me?