Books, Books, And More Books

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This past September and October I had to come face to face with my addiction to books. There would be little space for book shelves in our new home. What to do?

I was getting good at clearing out the kitchen of uneccessary gadgets. Did I need four or five table cloths, Bill’s mother’s fancy china and gorgeous chrystal glasses that we never used because they were so fragile? I cut my wardrobe back radically. All the gardening tools except for a trowel and pruning shears had to find homes along with all the flower pots, bags of potting soil, and fertilizer. I had no problem selling, donating, and gifting those things away. The purging was going well and everytime I decided to discard something, I felt lighter.

But I still had the books to do. I started with the large collection of poetry books that took up at least 7 of a 10 shelf bookcase which I would also have to find a new home for. There sat Robert Frost, Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon, Gregory Orr and a host of other well known and not so well known poets.

Nonfiction books, covering a vast range of subjects from nature, memoir, self-help, Buddhism, along with favorites like Terry Tempest Williams and Annie Dillard, took up more space than anything else in additional bookcases. Since I did’t read much fiction, there weren’t many novels.

Being an artist I had a healthy collection of art books that had served as inspiration for most of my life. Included were instruction books on beading, especially French Beaded Flowers, and books filled with gorgeous photos of real flowers that I thought I would one day figure out how to mimic with beads.

Were there cookbooks, you ask? How could I live without the seventy-five or so texts that had fed us since we got married back in 1965. Get rid of Julia Child? And what about all the new Paleo cookbooks that I’ve been using for the last couple of years?

Somehow I did find a way to part with many of them. I gave them to family, friends, and donated the rest to the local library for their annual spring book sale. I learned a lot about my reading habits and found loads of books I had bought and never read. There were books that I hadn’t liked but kept anyway. I started by getting rid of those and continued to purge until the last minute. Those that were left are in the built-in book cases in the living room, bookcases in my studio and bedrooms.

Keeping a library on my kindle doesn’t help. I’ve never liked reading books on a “device.” I love to hold real books in my hands, turn real paper pages, and feel the weight of the writings I hold in my hand.

I’ve made a few rules for myself to help me through my recovery: I give myself time most day to rest and read after lunch for an hour or so. I’ll not push through a book that isn’t my cup of tea. If it’s boring or too painful to read, I won’t bother. When I buy a new book, I ask myself if it’s one I’ll need to keep. It’s okay if I need to own a book so I can mark it up, make notes in the margins, or underline passages that speak to me. I won’t buy new books unless I get rid of one for each one I bring home. Once I finish reading the books I haven’t read yet, I’ll hopefully start going to the library. Will I ever  completely recover from this addiction of mine?  I don’t know.  But I figure this one is better than addictions to booze and drugs.

I’ve read the following books in the last month or so.  They are all good reads and are now on their way to the library book sale:  Finding Magic, A Spiritual Memoir, by Sally Quinn, The Winter People, a ghost story, by Jennifer McMahon, Pachinko, a novel by National Book Award Finalist, Min Jin Lee, and The Keeper of Lost Things, a whimsical novel by Ruth Hogan.

I’m currently working my way through Sister Joan Chittister’s, The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully. I can’t get enough of this marvelous book that is guiding me each day through the hard work of aging. This one will stay on the shelf next to my bed forever.

Are you addicted to books?


  1. Yes, indeed, I AM addicted to books. During our move in 2016 my book shelf had to be decreased by two-thirds. My way-to-release was thinking of who would enjoy the books and then focused on the receiver. Some books I had little emotional attachment to went to Goodwill or other charity.

    One solution to avoid book build-up for me these days is to check out books from our well-endowed public library.

    Two points you make I heartily agree with: 1. I don’t force myself to read books that don’t seem to be my cup of tea; life is too short for that, and 2. I don’t like devices either, preferring the feeling of warm cloth or paper covers in my hand.

    If I/we have to be addicted to something, it might as well be books. Yes?

    • Joan Rough says:

      I knew we were kindred spirits, Marian. As a child I used to LOVE going to the library. It was a mysterious place where I’d sit in a window seat and look through all sorts of wonderful books while dust moats danced all around me. I need to revisit the library here and get myself acclimated again. But alas there are no window seats with dust moats. But I shall go anyway.

  2. Carolyn McGrath says:

    I moved ten years ago and had the problem of way too many books to move. I had colleagues with enormous libraries in their homes and their biggest retirement dilemma was how to place their books, either individually or as a collection. My solution was to open an Amazon seller’s account. I got rid of most of my professional books that way and some of the tomes I figured I’d never get around to reading. Books I loved, I sold to people who wanted them, unless I’d notated them heavily. I figured that if I thought I’d want to reread them,I could easily find them in the library. I moved to a place with a wonderful regional public library with many branches. They’ll find the book I want and bring it to my nearest branch the next day. As for all other books hanging around, I give them to the public library for their huge bi-annual sale.

    • Joan Rough says:

      All great ideas, Carolyn. We have a great library system here as well and I will be making use of it very soon.

  3. Indeed, Joan. I AM a book addict! My bookcases are bulging and everywhere you look in our home you’ll find books of all genres, mostly non-fiction. You remind me that I need to purge. I have a favorite local independent “old”bookstore where I bring a bag of books only to leave with a bag of new “old” books. Oh well, as you say, there are worse things to be addicted to!

    • Joan Rough says:

      There are way more worse things we could be addicted to, Kathy.

      We have numerous used book stores here as well and yes, it’s the same deal. Bring in and take more with you when you leave. They are where a great many of my books came from in the first place. It’s like candy bars at checkout counters. You go in the store to buy healthy veggies and leave with sugar laden treats!

  4. So I guess this is not the place to encourage you to buy a copy of my memoir, Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62.

    If you want to ask your local library to order it for others, though, since you are a conscientious reader, it’s available through Ingram. =)

    And my husband really wants me to clear out some of my books, but they’re BOOKS!

    • Joan Rough says:

      Well, Lynn, I know what you mean. I too am a published author with a memoir, “SCATTERING ASHES, A Memoir of Letting Go.” How can one write and sell without buying other writers books? I could say, I’ll buy yours if you buy mine, or we could simply trade. 🙂

  5. As the previous commentator said, there are worst things to be addicted to. I intend to buy all the books you mentioned and see for myself. I got rid of hundreds of books, including around 150 cookbooks, when I left Mexico 20 years ago.Now I have 5 bookcases.

    • Joan Rough says:

      That’s the way it’s worked for me too, Penelope. Food and cooking are another addiction for me and am one of those cooks who always has to have something new on the table. So when I see a new cookbook with recipes I want to try I fall into the “I have to have it,” kind of person.

  6. Mary gottschalk says:

    I went through this dilemma three or four years ago when Kent and I moved into a condo.p and had to “deaccession” many years of books. It was very painful at the time, but now I struggle to remember why it was so hard. It is dinner with friends … a gorgeous sunrise …that create meaning. What I read three decades ago informs who I am … but that is who I am even if the books are gone,

    • I getting to that point, Mary. I can live without books. I can’t live without friends, gorgeous sunsets, or walks through the woods. Those are the most important things.

  7. Hello. My name is Laurie Buchanan and I’m s book addict (from my local library or on my Kindle).