Thursday, October 27, 2005

More on books

Between thinking upon my favorite fiction, a friend who was cleaning out and getting rid of some books, and my latest search for some empty shelf space in which to create a Halloween village landscape, I've been noticing the books on my book cases.

For many years my shelves overwhelmingly were stocked with non-fiction. Lots of "how-to", resource, and informational books. A few essay types - on anything from Star Trek to Walton's Pond. The few fiction books I owned didn't fill half of one shelf. Why? Because I didn't generally BUY fiction. I borrowed it from a library. Or, even if I bought it, probably used, I read it and then gave it away. Why keep something that I wouldn't read again? Because generally, I never used to reread fiction.

That's changed. For one thing, I've become a connossieur of strange or unknown literature apparently. The kind of stuff it's hard to get at the library. So I have to track it down, order it from some obscure website (or nowadays, from Amazon) and after going through all that trouble, I'm sure as H-E-double hocky sticks not going to turn around and get rid of it again. Too much effort went into the finding of it.

Well, let's backtrack for a sec, for another more important thing, I'm READING fiction now. I used to read fiction to the same degree that I had it on my shelves. Too, I have more disposable income to purchase it - although I still look for used whenever possible. So let's go over this all again: I read fiction, I buy it, I stock up on it when I can find it used, I have a list a zillion feet long of titles and authors I'm looking for, and I tend to collect series or authors bodies of work. My ratio of keep-for-my-shelves to pass-on-as-pleasant-but-unforgettable is now probably about 3 or 4:1.

You can see I have a real storage problem in the works.

But I got off on a tangent there. I wasn't actually going to talk about my growing fiction collection. I was going to talk about those decades worth of shelves filled with non-fiction. Books we rarely crack open anymore except for a few favorites. Why? Well, duh, if you're reading this blog, you know why - THE INTERNET. I can't think of anything one can't find information on online. I wouldn't keep reference books at all except for sentimental value and the small but worrisome voice in the back of my head that is worried that some day the plug might blow and we'll all be computerless apes once again.

For several days now I've been browsing through the nonfiction shelves and it's been an interesting experience, a pleasant walk down memory lane, not to mention productive. Some of the books no longer interest me (The World of the Baby for example, a gift from my sister many years ago when I was baby crazy - now I'm happy to let my kids make babies for me to grandmother on occasion). Some I no longer need because they're too basic. How to plant a garden - uhm, I could write that book. Found a book on vitamin therapy - 30 years old - wanna bet that's completely useless information now?

Some were really fun to stumble upon for old time's sake. There was one called Country Kids, about the pleasures and pitfalls of raising kids in the country. It was written in the mid-70's and looked it - lots of moms in patchwork skirts, guys with long hair. I remember I loved looking at all the photos of families and childrens doing "country" things. I found it on the shelf today, browsed through it and realized that I didn't need the book because now, 30 years later, I have albums filled with photos of my very own children doing all those country things. Or if the camera wasn't clicking, I have the memories.

By the time I was done, I'd managed to get rid of at least two shelves worth of books. Very exciting. Of course, once I reshuffle things to accomodate the stacks of new fiction that I haven't had room for, and so I've piled and wedged them inconveniently in front of other shelves, I probably still won't find those elusive empty shelves I'm looking for.

Sigh. Books are like children - I can't imagine wanting to live without them, but I just wish they wouldn't take up so much space sometimes.


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