Scenes from My Library Circa 2002
I’m showing you this 17-year-old picture of my library because now it’s much worse. The center of the room has large piles of books and boxes full of more books. Was I trying to build my own Library of Alexandria? Apparently. I used to love going to bookstores and buying lots of books, supplemented by the books I bought from Amazon, eBay, and the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). I used to spend upwards of several hundred dollars a month picking up titles which I thought that, some day, I would sit down and read.
It’s not that I don’t read that much. According to my records, I still devour some 150 books a year. Look me up on Goodreads.Com, and you will find my reviews of all the books I read. It’s just that, now that I’m retired and on a fixed income, and now that bookstores have almost ceased to exist, I read more library books. And I also read many of the books I have downloaded on Kindle, which cost a whole lot less than new paperbacks.
So for the last year or so, I have been donating hundreds of books to libraries—most specifically the Mar Vista Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library—and in some case selling or trading books to the few booksellers still in the business. Each week, I donate an average of two boxes of books to the library. I will continue until my total book collection shrinks by some two to three thousand books.
That still leaves me with plenty of books. Being an insatiable bookworm, I will never lack for something to read.
Me in My Library in Palmier Times
Ever since I was very young, I wanted to live surrounded by books. And I did, spending hundreds of dollars a month on books—hardbounds, paperbacks, even e-books. There is a tendency for accumulations to get out of hand. I have known collectors who lived in fear of being crushed under their film collections, movie poster collections, book collections. Collections can grow so out of bounds that they become a kind of illness, related to hoarding. When Martine and I moved from room to room, we had to take prescribed paths, because the floor was piled high with books. It was frequently a bone of contention between us.
Beginning late last year, I started donating books to the Mar Vista Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. In a twelve-month period, I have given well over a thousand books to the library. Some will be sold by the library at one of their bimonthly sales, some will be sold for a dollar a book at the branch, some (the cheaper ones) will just be given away. Who knows? Perhaps some of them might even be incorporated into he library’s own collection. A lot of them are great titles in prime condition.
If you look at the books behind me in this picture, I would have to say that about 30-40% are no longer in my possession. Twice a week, a put together a box of books for donation, with Martine’s eager cooperation.
Now that I am living on a fixed income, I buy relatively few books, and then only if I intend to read them in the near future. Today, for example, I purchased a nice harbound copy of Paul Theroux’s Sir Vidia’s Shadow, about the author’s decades-long friendship with V. S. Naipaul.
Do I read as much as ever? Of course I do—perhaps even more so. It’s just that I no longer feel I have to own all the books I love. I just have to read them.