This will be short because today is my Saturday to go with my sisters to the gifted Isaac and get my hair made gorgeous and then have lunch and go shopping.
Luckily a topic is near at hand, in the form of tottering stacks of books.
I’m nesting, a sure sign of About-To-Start-a-New-Book. A reorganization of my office. An annual event that never quite gets completed before I find myself immersed in the dubious joys of Outlining the New Book.
This week, I’ve had to deal with the bookshelves.
After the last copy edit, I broke down and bought a Chicago Manual of Style, completely forgetting I already had one. But that was in another place. And besides, the wench is–oops, wrong drama. It was in another place and besides, that was the 14th edition, and we are now up to the 15th. So the 15th came in…along with some other books–I can’t help myself–and there are some more on the way, including a fresh Fowler or two to replace mine that are turning brown and crumbly. So I had to take a hard look at the “usage” shelf and de-accession. A nice, clinical sounding word for a wrenching experience. A wrenching Wench experience. Sorry. Not really. Words are my life. Including dumb words.
So books are my life, too.
There are too many. The reference books, for instance. Space is limited. And so some have to go. More than do go, undoubtedly.
There are reference books on my shelves I haven’t opened since the day they entered the house. Some I’ve skimmed. If I limited the books to the ones I use repeatedly, one bookshelf would probably do it for me. But you never know when that umpteenth picture book of English country houses is the one that will solve your locale problems or help you work out the logistics of the crucial scene where the heroine solves the mystery of her father’s disappearance but accidentally causes a series of events ending in the hero falling out of a window and breaking his leg, putting him in danger of a fatal infection or possible amputation… which means I’m really going to need those six books on surgery, along with the various tomes on anatomy.
I could Google it but you know what? Google doesn’t always answer the questions or else that’s all it does: answer the one question. Thumbing through a book gives one ideas. Besides, there’s the feel of a book in one’s hands. And yes, I’m an old-fashioned girl. Not always, but mostly.
The Usage Shelf was filled in the usual proper manner, but then I was putting books on top of the books, which is a grievous form of book abuse. So I moved a bunch of grammar books down to the room where I lost the 14th edition of the Chicago Manual, to make room for the 15th edition and the shiny new usage books.
Then there are the shelves of British history, general and specific. This includes some handsome, huge volumes that I have rarely consulted because they are in dictionary form, and my research mind doesn’t work that way. Like Pat (it was you, Pat, wasn’t it?) I loathe the dictionary-style thesaurus. I’ll use my MS Word Thesaurus when this I-Don’t-Remember-the-Sixties-or-the-Seventies-or-the-Eighties brain refuses to give me the word I want–but when I want the perfect word and can’t quite hit on it, I turn to my non-dictionary style Roget’s. The simple-answer style doesn’t encourage the roaming over seemingly unrelated words and the resulting serendipity. Likewise with dictionary-style books about history.
But I digress.
This is about getting rid of books. One method I used on fiction in the past was to ask myself what the chances were of my re-reading a book. Then if I was still holding onto it, under the assumption that I would live to be seven hundred and forty-three years old–which is how long I would have to live in order to have time to get through the TBR pile as well as re-read all those books I imagine I’ll ever re-read–I’d ask, If I had to move in one month, would I want to add this to the boxes?
I could explain how this does or doesn’t work out but I have to go to the hairdresser now, and anyway, I could use some ideas.
How do you deal with the books in your life? Do you keep them, and just buy bigger houses? Do you cull? Do you discard as you go along? What’s your philosophy and method?