Saturday, 19 September 2009

Pondering the home library

A large part of today's writing group brunch discussion seemed to centre around books, and the basis for keeping them. Being writers we are all book people, but we did speculate on what was to be considered a reasonable number to maintain in one's home library.

I have always been one to buy books. All through high school and university, books were perhaps the one thing I never held back on. If I wanted a book, I bought it. No questions. No guilt. I allowed myself this one vice, and read avidly, often until the wee hours of the morning. Sadly, I don't seem to read nearly as much these days. I suppose I am trying to fit too many other things in. However, I do still prefer to buy my reading group books, and any others that take my fancy. I always have a massive pile of books that I have not yet had the chance to read.

I love having a home library. I have purged occasionally over the years, so it's not a massive collection, but it is a reasonable size. Many books I have read more than once, or at least intend to; others I doubt I'll ever get around to reading again, but I keep them because I love having them there. They are mostly fiction, but not all. It has got to the point where I probably need to invest in a new bookshelf. (I can probably find space for one.) I could probably do with a purge as well. But somehow I know that if I sort through them, I will probably come away with a single small box full of around 10 books. The rest will all make it back onto the shelf!

But (and here is where we go back to today's brunch conversation), what do you do when you have seven loaded bookshelves and need to find room for someone else's almost as impressive collection? You start making wild declarations that you will cull your book collection to 100 books. (Ha!) Of course, we know this to be impossible, but it does raise certain points: why keep books that are readily available in libraries? Why keep books that you know you will not read again? Is there a need to keep duplicate copies of favourite books? What if said duplicate copies were both signed by the author?

My gut feeling in this situation would be to retain a book if I was in any doubt. (I confess I already have duplicate copies of some books!) There are plenty of books I know I won't read again, but don't particularly want to get rid of. But then, I don't have the above-mentioned space (or volume) issues. Despite the modest size of my house, I'm not yet in any danger of running out of bookshelf space. Until I do, I don't have to be ruthless. In fact, I'm far more likely at present to go buy another bookshelf!

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