To Keep or Give Up: Book Hoarding

I am 90% sure I could become a hoarder.  Primarily, a book hoarder.  You know hoarders- the people who have their own TV show on A&E.  These are people who can’t seem to get rid of anything they bring into their homes.  Typically it’s disgusting, but every so often there seems to be someone who just likes to shop and buy things, but has no ability to stop or remove anything from their home.  They often say “I may need that some day” or “I can do something crafty with that.”  When there are people who hoard books on that show I often get fearful that I am looking at my own future.

No, really- watching Hoarders makes me clean.  New seasons of Hoarders typically kick off my need to purge.  I have to be very careful when it comes to books.  I try to be very strategic about what gets saved and what is passed on.  I rarely buy books, as I have mentioned a few times here.  Between conferences and other avenues to get copies, I often buy when that is the only way to get a book I want.

The result of all of this is that I have, for the amount I read, very few books.  There are things I will always keep: Harry Potter, Dune, Lord of the Rings, Austen, text books that still interest me, and Stephen King books.  Then there are the others.  The others are things that I struggle to keep.

Here is an example: personal autographs.  At conferences I often have the opportunity to have a book autographed by the author.  There are certain people I will wait in line to meet for this purpose. I often get books autographed to other people or as a general autograph, but most of the time it is for me.  I have a real struggle getting rid of these books.  I often go back and forth on the issue.  I pull the book from the shelf, put it in a discard pile, and then put it back when I think I may want to touch it again.

I don’t consider if I will read a book again, by the way, I consider if I want to touch it again.  I am a highly kinesthetic person and touching an item brings back more memories than re-reading a book.  There are far too many books in the world for me to re-read all of mine.

ANYWAY! It is the autograph that makes it difficult for me to let it go.  Even when I didn’t like the book.  Even if I don’t care about who the author is.  I struggle to discard it.  At my very first Book Expo I shared a cab with an author.  We had a nice ride and chatted about our lives.  I enjoyed his company and went to get a copy of his book when he had a signing.  He personalized it beyond just writing my name.  The trouble is, I disliked the book- a lot.  Yet, it still sits on my shelf.  I never spoke to the author again.  I owe him nothing, but I can’t seem to part with the book.

Then there are the books I pay for.  I don’t buy a lot of books.  When I do, it means something is important enough for me to want to read it.  This doesn’t always mean I enjoy the book.  Sometimes I realize that I actually don’t care for the book at all.  This was the case with Longbourn.  It was Downton Abbey meets Pride & Prejudice.  I like both those things.  In fact, I deeply love one of those things.  The problem: I didn’t like Longbourn at all.  I paid money for the hardback edition, though.  I still have the book sitting on my shelf with all the other P&P editions.

I know I am not alone in the struggle on keeping or discarding books.  I know I can discard books when I need to.  I am about to make some tough decisions about the books very soon.  I just want you to know what happened when you can’t come into my home because it is so full of books that there is no pathways.  When I am on Hoarders in 20-something years, we will all know why I ended up there: I wanted to keep that one book because it has an autograph in it.

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