Thursday, December 22, 2022

Those old books

Recently a reader left a comment about the photo below as follows: "You teased me with the beautiful, sunlit photo of what looks like two sets of books. What are the two sets? You had previously mentioned collecting the Harvard Classics. I have been seeing some of them, various editions, periodically, in my local (Florida) library’s used books-for-sale section, usually for 50 cents each. If you’re still looking for any volumes, and have a post office box (I’m sure you don’t want to give out your address) I can keep an eye out for them."

Yes, one of those sets is my beloved Harvard Classics, purchased for $1/each when our old library was upgrading. (Thank you for the very sweet offer, but I have the complete set.)

The other (more colorful) set of books is the collection of "Britannica Great Books," purchased many years ago at a different library sale for – are you ready for this? – $3. Not $3 for each book, but $3 for the complete set. Score!

Then the other day, a shaft of sunlight hit the books and I just thought they were so pretty. Heavens, I do love our books.

But apparently I'm not the only one. I stumbled across an article recently called  "We’re drowning in old books. But getting rid of them is heartbreaking" that discusses the sorrow older people feel when it comes to downsizing their personal home libraries (an act of love so their heirs won't be forced to deal with them). One woman said, "The idea of getting rid of these books made me nauseous." Another said, "Constitutionally, I am unable to throw a book away. To me, it’s like seeing a baby thrown in a trash can. I am a glutton for print. I love books in every way."

I'm afraid these are sentiments I entirely understand.

The article explains, "What to do with old books is a quandary that collectors, no matter what age, eventually face – or leave to their heirs who, truly, do not want the bulk of them. Old volumes are a problem for older Americans downsizing or facing mortality, with their reading life coming to a close. ... Book lovers are known to practice semi-hoardish and anthropomorphic tendencies. They keep too many books for too long, despite dust, dirt, mold, cracked spines, torn dust jackets, warped pages, coffee stains and the daunting reality that most will never be reread. Age rarely enriches a book."

(Speak for yourself. I re-read my books all the time.)

The article adds, "Most people haven’t a clue as to how many books they own. Possibly, they don’t want to know. Roberts [the owner of a used bookstore] routinely make house calls to owners claiming to own 2,000 books only to discover a quarter of that."

Well, in our heyday we had about 5,000 books in our home, including the libraries of both our kids. Two thousand books? Pfft. That's nothing.

"With the exception of rare and antiquarian collectors, few owners know the monetary value of their holdings. Invariably, they overvalue them," remarks the article.

Um, none of our books have any value whatsoever ... except to us. My copy of Jane Goodall's "In the Shadow of Man," signed by her in 1980? Absolutely stinkin' priceless.

While both our daughters have become avid readers, they both have their own tastes in literature, as they should. When the time comes to disperse our library, it's doubtful either kid will want the vast majority of the volumes on our shelves.

But that's okay. They can have a great big bonfire with our books if they want to, then use our shelves to house their own collection. But in the meantime, I'm not getting rid of 40+ years' worth of books just because we're getting older.

As the article concludes, "[One booklover] makes no excuses. She says: 'There are millions of books in the world. Twelve thousand is nothing. It's like having a pound of salt from the ocean.' So she will hold on to each and every one of them."

Preach it, sister.


  1. where to get and put all the book cases is my issue.

    1. Are you kidding me? Unfortunately, I've never really had That problem, no matter how little space.
      As a very young person it was in vogue to paint cinderblocks and find or purchase boards to stack to make bookcases.You can even make a wall or room divider or an entryway doing this.
      And it has also been in vogue to simply make stacks of them, orderly stacks, using a wall or nook or a piece of furniture like a desk. My favorite place is above windows on a shelf ( or 2) above head height around under the ceiling. No furniture has to be moved.
      You can I am not a hoarder of books.

    2. I was recently watching a couple on a program they called Ancient Jewish Wisdom, but the programmer called something else.
      The wife was talking about getting rid of the clutter of things you loved too much to part with. She got this from a book someone recently wrote but I forget what book.
      Anyway, you take the item and address it like it's a person. You tell the item how much you have loved it and how well it served you, and that it's time for it to go forth in service to others. Then, for example, clothing, it can be donated.
      What I do for ratty t-shirts or other things like that is wrap pets for burial. Or small beloved items may go in the grave with a pet. I always release a tangible object of love with a pet. A book would work for an animal that snuggled while you read.
      Our real problem of disposing of books today is technology. People want to read on their devices, not some potentially germ laden book. And the biggest tragedy there is that the best content, the best information, might get edited out by some ah, it's best not to go there.

  2. Re-read a book? When I was about 8 or 9 years old and home from school ill, I read Treasure Island for the third time; and have read it again at least twice more. Ayn Rand's novels several times each. Many of Louis La Moore's more than once. Tony Hillerman's works often. Am retired, so I've time to read about two hundred to two hundred fifty different books by many authors, each year, but rereading about characters I've known is comforting. I seldom buy a book any more - the Cochise County Library system is fabulous. We have one hundred feet of bookshelves of our own books. Don & Patrice are to be envied for the library they have built. As has been said before: keep on doing what you are doing. I enjoy your blog, both words and photos, and check it every time I bring up my computer.

  3. Books are old friends that I visit with regularly. Many I have had since childhood & really started collecting in middle school.

  4. I know, well, whereof thou speakest. A few years ago I sold my complete set of Louis L'Amour hardcover books to my sister-in-law's husband. We were downsizing and needed the room; however, occasionally I find myself wanting reread one of his novels or short stories.

  5. Couldn't agree with you more! We are a homeschooling family that has over 8,000 books (that is just the ones I've catalogued, there are a ridiculous number still in boxes waiting for more shelves. My hope is to open a living library for other homeschoolers, as our collection is almost entirely the types of books that are no longer found in libraries. There are a lot of us out there--and for those on fb, Reshelving Alexandria is where we gather. Like you, I scored a Great Books series at a library sale. I was missing one book, but the rest of the set was $1.50. I paid about $6 to get that last volume :) And I was given my great grandfather's Harvard Classics. He was a school teacher in MN and his set is in beautiful condition. I treasure them and the connection to him. The biggest on going challenge is that there are never enough bookshelves. And our open floor plan means never enough walls for those bookshelves. Thank goodness for a wonderful husband who has supported filling a section of our finished basement into a library!

  6. When I was going to college back in the early 1960's I met a townie that was also going to school. He invited me to his home to play ping pong and I found his father's science fiction collection. It was about 29 ft long and 6 ft high and was filled with paper back books some two deep. It was the reason for my almost flunking out that year!

  7. i feel emotional about books and other than one great cleanout for sanity's sake, I keep all books. I got rid of 10 books a day until all boxes were emptied and all 7 bookcases were still overflowing. Since I know when I started and stopped, I got rid of 800 books, either selling or donating. I had over 1000 books left on my shelves. I have since acquired more books. The book
    I have had the longest is 65 years. My Little Golden Books I had had for 72 years were destroyed.

  8. Patrice, one of the great sadness of my parents when they relocated was the fact they got rid of their Encyclopedia Britannica set. It was from the late '70's, but would still be of great use today (where I would put it, I have no idea).

    I have a theory that we may get to test out, that like vinyl records which are making a come back, physical books will make a comeback as well. There is something about holding a book in one's hand or being able to know just by the book about where a certain section is that a screen will never give us.

    I continue to "add" to my collection, although it has become much less as I am more selective as to what I add. And I, too, re-read them all the time.

  9. When we moved 1400 miles into a smaller place I donated several hundred books to a library fund raising sale. After we settled in our new home I realized how much I missed some of those books. I had kept a lot of favorites, but others were missed too much. I have have since gone to second hand book stores and bought many of those I gave away. Despite having less square footage we found places for them.

  10. Pulled out the complete set of Dick & Jane readers when covid stopped schools. My youngest grandson was in kindergarten so he read to me each night. He's in 3rd grade now, reading on an 8th grade level. He's the latest of 3 kids & 6 grandkids to use these as well as my sister & me. One grand read 2 million words last year in her accelerated reading. She starts Early High School/College next fall! Another generation of avid readers.

  11. I have only started reading "the Classics" in the past few years. I am 70. I love reading and enjoy many different types of books. The other day, I asked my husband to tell me what his favorite book was this year. I had been thinking about this question and my own answer for a few days. Without hesitation, my 2022 hands down favorite is Swiss Family Robinson. Absolutely loved that story!

  12. I also have a lot of books and keep getting more, I have a room just for my library. I have no intention of getting rid of any of them unless they are duplicates then I keep the better of the 2. When I pass I am sure that my kids and grandkids will select what they want and donate the rest. My grandson has already staked out his share.

  13. When we relocated from VT to FL I had to let about 6000 books go. 90% science fiction, my collection started in grade school. We simply couldn't afford to ship them all. I tried the library, used book stores, craig's list...nobody wanted them but for a few that had some value as collector's editions. Into the dumpster along with the other stuff we didn't want to move and couldn't give away. I cherry picked 500 or so to bring along. It was heart breaking, but also a bit liberating. Books could be an idol for me.

  14. There is a non-profit in Amherst MA that takes unwanted books and gives them to needy libraries, schools and individuals. It's called Reader to Reader

  15. Fear not, those of you who feel you must get rid of some books. There are folks like me (grin) who frequent yard sales and estate sales and scoop up many of those books! I have gotten some REALLY good books and even classic collections for next to nothing. I have a goal to collect many classics not only for my own enjoyment, but for my grankids, in case the schools shut down again or they need to be homeschooled for (ahem) other reasons we won't mention.

  16. I could never get rid of my books. I just keep buying more for as long as I can. BTW, love your collection, Patrice. Books furnish a room.

  17. I've just started buying books, the titles being ones the schools have started to ban.

  18. I've just started buying books, the titles being ones that high schools have banned.

  19. Merry Christmas!
    Wishing you all the best in 2023.

  20. Thank you Patrice!

    Sorry if this is a duplicate comment. I think I accidentally posted it anonymously.