Jessie: Turning up the heat and watching the leaves flutter to the ground.
As the weather has turned cooler I’ve been spending a lot of time in my office lately. All through the summer I work on a porch where the breezes bring the smell of salt air and the sound of beachgoers to my nose and ears. It is a spare sort of a space with a desk in the chair and a great many windows. There is room for my sticky notes and a pencil cup and one small, slim bookshelf. But come fall, I returned to my entirely indoor office space where the clutter threatens to overwhelm me if I don’t beat it back. There are houseplants and stationary and important files. There are also shelves and shelves of books.
Some time ago I promised myself I would not increase the number of bookshelves in my home. Under any circumstances. Instead, I decided I would be ruthless in culling my collection. Mostly I feel it has worked out okay. Many books that I read our pleasant the first time through better ones I feel happy to pass along to others without any thought to their return.
Other books are more difficult. Some are reference books which I find I turn to frequently enough to resist releasing them out into the world. I have a fear that they will contain just the nugget I needed as soon as they are no longer in my office. And then, there are those works of fiction that I find I love to re-read.
There are the Agatha Christies, the Mary Stewarts, the EF Benson and PG Woodhouse novels. Books by Alice Peters, Charlotte MacLeod, Annie Proulx, Garrison Keillor, Martha Grimes stared me down every time my hand hovers over their spines considering the unthinkable. Somehow I’ve managed to stick to my rule even though I seem to continually add new books to my home. What I promised myself was that I would not buy more bookshelves. I did not decide to use them in a strictly Orthodox manner.
At this point the books can best be described as double parked. I’ve managed to convince myself I’m still considering whether or not to keep certain books when I stack them in front of those permanently shelved. Other books I place on top of the neat rows like little hats or rooves. I always think they look slightly jaunty perched atop the others, like cardinals balancing on bare tree branches. And much like those pretty winter birds, I find those extra books cheer my office landscape. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Readers, do you have trouble culling your books? Do you re-read or immediately pass things along to others? Writers, do you have trouble letting go of reference materials?