When moving out of a sprawling suburban home six years ago, my husband and I scanned the floor-to-10-foot ceiling book shelves in our den. Each of us packed the books we could not part with. The rest—about 2,000 books—were donated to charity.
In our new Manhattan apartment, we settled into two offices lined with shelves, but since my husband’s office was larger, once in a while I snuck there books of interest to both of us.
My yet-unshelved “to read” stack next to my bed grew rapidly until I purchased a buffet-type cabinet under the TV to store the excess books. Today, when trying to sort out the books I’ve promised fellow authors to review, the books for the two book groups I’ve join, the hotly recommended books I’ve bought, and the 60 lbs. of books I had lugged from the last BookExpo, I realized it was time to revisit my system of stocking books.
Luckily, when my bookcases was built, I had the foresight to order extra shelves. Now, the air space my books enjoyed had to be used. Mumbling “excuse me,” on behalf of each new shelf, I pulled out the little thingies, inserted them in tighter slots--and increased my shelving capacity by 25%.
In my new world order I am looking at two shelves of books autographed by authors I’ve studied with or have met. One shelf of my own published books or short pieces included in anthologies and literary reviews. Two shelves of “How-To” books from my early writing career--half of those must depart at the next round of purging, I know. One shelf of out-of-print books about Jerusalem, the setting for my last novel, one shelf of books about Russia, China and U.S. legal system, the topics of my previous novels, one and-a-half shelf of dictionaries, thesaurus (thesauri?), books of quotations and grammar and style books. Then there is half-a shelf of French dictionaries and poetry, representing my still-flickering hope that one day I will brush up the language I had once spoke fluently. And finally, there are three shelves of Hebrew novels, my first and lasting love. Since Hebrew is 1/3 shorter than English (as grammatical contortions replace words required in English,) this collection of unassuming trade paperbacks represents a respectable collection.
In addition, there is one shelf of books that received accolades, but which I was too impatient to plow through—but I still hope they’ll grab me one day. Two more shelves for “To-Read” books that have migrated from the bedroom and must wait their turn in the queue behind the stacks left behind. Many of these are of unknown writers. I can’t wait to discover a gem among them.
You’ve been bearing with me until now? Then you can sympathize with the crux of my conflict: Five shelves-worth of excellent books I’ve read and enjoyed--books I that I’d like to honor by keeping them—are awaiting placement. Given my busy state, I doubt that I’ll have time to read them again. What’s the point of devoting so much real-estate to them? Yet I am reluctant to box these books. What do you do with books you've read?