Old Books Never Die

(Originally appeared in The Beach reporter on 7/11/91)

About twice a year I have to tackle the task of going through my stacks of books and recycle some of them to the library. It seems to happen overnight that there are books in every nook and cranny of the house.

From where I sit and read the newspaper every morning, I see the bookcase in the family room, its shelves groaning. There are also two stacks of books on the family room floor – one stack of library books and another stack of children’s books we own.

The coffee table is strewn with more children’s books. My children like to have books at hand so they can curl up on the family room couch at any given moment and read. So I leave the books where they are, even though it always looks messy.

Our two current favorites are Charlotte’s Web and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. These two books are so well-written that I look forward to reading them as much as my children do. Every time I finish a chapter, and say that is “absolutely it for the night” they beg me, “Please, please, puhleeezze, just one more chapter.” I almost always give in.
There are paperbacks stacked on the floor, because there was no more room in the bookcase, and they ended up there “temporarily.” In the dining room I have another bookcase where I keep my collection of cookbooks, gardening books, sewing books, and books on entertaining and home improvement. I can dream, can’t I?

In another corner of the dining room, is a huge wicker basket filled with books about cats. Somehow, my children and I started collecting them; probably around the time we got our cat Edward, a ginger tabby of excellent character. The cat books have the most beautiful illustrations, and I will probably never be able to give any of them away.

In the living room: coffee table books. Large, heavy books from museums we visited, which we rarely look at. I have to keep them though as mementos of our travels. Books that are mementos can be strangely comforting to have in one’s possession.

In my bedroom, my husband and I each have nightstands cluttered with a variety of reading material. On my nightstand is How to Make an American Quilt, Domestic Pleasures, The Kitchen God’s Wife, and several magazines and catalogs.

My husband’s nightstand is usually home to the latest spy thriller, business magazines, and books like Monthly Interest Amortization Tables. Every now and then I weed out the nightstand books and move them to bookshelves.

The office where I do most of my writing also has a large bookcase, filled to overflowing with reference books, books on writing, and a hodgepodge of other books.

My children each have bookcases in their rooms as well. I won’t even mention the boxes of books in the garage. Although recently I did go through and take some of those to the library for their book sale. I came up with a grand total of eight I could part with.

I couldn’t get rid of A Tale of Two Cities, even though the pages are yellowing. I must have had it since college. The price on it is $1.50. The same for Rebecca and The Bell Jar. These books are like old friends, and even though I am unlikely to read them again, I like knowing they are there.
I was able to part with several books on how to raise a brilliant child and be a perfect parent. I kept Dr. Spock, though. I gladly said goodbye to Jane Fonda’s exercise book. Talk about yellowing pages.

I moved books from pile to pile, and out to the garage. But then I negated that by bringing a few back in from the garage.

I guess the answer is to get more bookcases.

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