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Book Horde

Antique books

Hi, my name is Cedar, and I hoard books…

Antique books

There is a beauty in old books.

I was thinking this last night as I looked at the stack of books on my nightstand, and then read myself to sleep with a book on my phone (my preferred in-bed reader, as I can turn out the light, and it’s small enough to curl up around). I have so little time to read, and yet I still buy books. The stack on my nightstand alone, at my current rate of a book a week, could last me months. Not to mention the stack in the office, the book on hold at the library, or the shelves… we won’t even discuss the books in the e-library.

So why do I do this? Well, at one time in my life, it was hard to get books. I was book-poor, would read anything, and couldn’t afford to buy more. The library wasn’t an option at that time, so I hard to earn my books, and treasure them, and savor them, and… Ah, hem, where was I?

Oh yes, hoarding books. You see, now I am relatively book-rich. I have the ability to pick up books at a shop when I find them without worrying about whether it’s ok to add to my library or whether I can afford them (if you’re wondering, I rarely buy new, I’m talking thrift shops and used bookstores when it comes to paper. My budget is not that big!). Even more amazing to me, I can buy online, and get what I want, when I want it.

Gone are the days of reading whatever was on hand. If I am in the mood for a WWI mystery novel, I can have one in seconds. When I want to sample some short stories of a golden-age SF writer like Mack Reynolds, a couple of clicks later and I am inhabiting one of his worlds vicariously. No longer must I read dubious romances (nothing against the genre, but you have to admit, it has produced some real stinkers) or even more questionable books. And I am making up for lost time, with a book here, three there. Just in case, you know, I really NEED them at some point…

Had I always been able to live like this, would I have ever become a writer? I sometimes wonder about that. I started writing back in my teens, and again about a decade ago, during the worst of my book drought. I wrote what I wanted to read, because I was having trouble finding what I wanted to read. Writing has become more than that, now I take pleasure in the characters who come to life in my head, the worlds that give me solace and escape from the mundane of my real life, but would I have gotten here, without that time of privation?

I’m trying not to work on a book right now, needing to write another one before I create this story, but I know that a central point in this book with be a dragon who hoards books. She’s not a full-blood dragon, but her most dragonish aspect is this deep-seated need to have as many books as she can, and to keep them safe. She will have to learn to allow others access to her library, and that’s not going to be easy… I think I came up with this out of my own past. I’ve had to purge my library, time and again, at the behest of others. “You have too many books. Books are clutter. That many books in the house can’t be healthy.”

I love having a library, and sometimes I have a pang for the lost books, like people who have gone on, beyond my reckoning, but I still have memories. What is more, as a writer I can craft those memories into stories, to honor the ones I read before, which are no longer. I can take the people I have loved, and those I have not, and add them to the mix. I can pull dimly-remembered facts from the non-fiction, verify, and use it to add versimilitude to my tales. I am what my books have made me.

I hoard books. Is this such a bad thing? I’m not giving them up again!

43 Comments
  1. Leo #

    Hi, my name is Leo and I move way, way, WAY too often to be a book hoarder.

    Is it sad that I *want* to be some kind of an addict?

    March 29, 2014
    • There’s always the e-library, portable, endlessly fillable… Come to the Dark Side, we have bookies 🙂

      March 29, 2014
      • Draven #

        That’s why i like my new tablet. If i set the reader to reverse (white text, black BG) it works quite well, and adjusts its brightness for ambient light so when lights are off the brightness does to minimum

        March 29, 2014
        • I will have to try that. I adjust my phone screen brightness, so it’s not glaring, and I have read on this size screen ever since I found out I could load Project Gutenberg books on my palm pilot back in oh, 2001? But I do have a tablet now.

          March 29, 2014
  2. When I moved the last time, the moving guys didn’t understand why there were all these small boxes labeled “books – heavy” but no sofa or entertainment system. They also didn’t think I was serious about the boxes being heavy. *evil grin* But then my renter’s insurance rep had trouble believing that I’d get a [value] policy for “just books.” As my landlord put it, “There’s about R30 insulation right there,” and pointed at the Great Wall of Boykin (five semi-portable bookcases, all full). It’s gotten worse since then.

    March 29, 2014
    • You know I hadn’t thought about using them as insulation. Hm!

      March 29, 2014
      • Synova #

        My neighbor used to work in a textbook warehouse and his root cellar is insulated with books. I suppose they were going to the dump or something so he re-purposed them. I’m not talking about a book shelf, I’m talking about a space between two walls dumped full of old textbooks.

        I’d worry just a little bit that it was a fire hazard.

        March 29, 2014
        • Well, in some old houses they used newspaper, or sawdust, as insulation. Yes, it was a fire hazard.

          March 30, 2014
  3. 600 boxes of books in storage out of state. Another 800 boxes of books in storage locally, in a place large enough that I have set up 120 shelf-units (6-shelves) each of used industrial library shelving. All I have to do now is move the contents of 800 boxes onto shelving, so that I can free up the footprint those boxes occupy so that I can move the 600 boxes down and quit paying storage on that unit.

    Yes, it is a disease. Why do you ask? (In my own defense, about 70% of them belong to my husband).

    March 29, 2014
    • Surely not a disease, I don’t think it’s catching. Although now that I think of it, I might have inherited it from my parents…

      March 30, 2014
  4. Heh. I didn’t even mention the 20 full size shelf units in my little log cabin. That just fades into the background for us.

    March 29, 2014
  5. Self professed book hoarder here. Books shelved two deep on the bookcases, stacked on night stands, desks, end tables, coffee tables, dining room table, breakfast table, counter tops, etc. Any flat space available probably has books stacked on it or will at some point. Books in boxes. Kindle e-reader loaded with digital books. I love the smell and feel of printed books, especially the really old ones. I’m going to the public library annual book sale today to get my fix and help support my library and my habit.
    “He that loveth a book will never want for a faithful friend, a wholesome counselor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter”
    -Isaac Barrow

    March 29, 2014
  6. I’ve moved too often, and have too small a house, to actually be a book hoarder, but I do keep adding….Been trying to figure out where I could put some more built-in shelves (nearly all our furniture is built-in — it’s a very small house. Some of the books I buy (library book sale, mostly) are intended for other people, as I have friends who are homeschooling on tight budgets. That’s fun, too, as I get to buy books, and read them if I want to, and then give them to friends — the best of all worlds.

    March 29, 2014
    • Speaking of sending books, I have one I need to get in the mail to you. Remember I said I’d send you Dave Freer’s Cuttlefish?

      March 30, 2014
  7. A dragon who hoards books? I hope she isn’t the fire-breathing variant, or there could be tragedy.

    March 29, 2014
    • No, she isn’t, she doesn’t even shift to dragon form, although her grandfather does. I’d thought of that as well!

      March 30, 2014
  8. Laura M #

    This was a great post, Cedar. It caused me to reflect, once again, on books I’ve regretted getting rid of. The worst was a book called The Space Child’s Mother Goose, which I got rid of as a teen under the misguided notion that I’d outgrown in. I’ve searched Amazon for it periodically over the years. Today I went and looked, and it’s there! And, now, it’s in my cart.

    I still rememember:

    Hickory Dickory, my black hen
    She lays eggs in the positive when
    She doesn’t lay eggs in the positive now
    Because she’s unable to postulate how.

    Or, something like that.

    March 29, 2014
    • Amazon is neat that way. I have been able to come up with all sorts of things, most recently a couple Asterix books in Spanish to facilitate my learning in that language.

      March 30, 2014
  9. robfornow #

    I don’t have enough time in the day to count all the bookcases, sacks of books my wife and I have. None of the family reads so we are considered weird. They haven’t seen my tablet yet. A friend on Facebook posted a picture of a library hung from the ceiling. Ours is too low, however, we could add a plate shelf around the living and dining rooms.

    March 29, 2014
    • A plate shelf sounds like a fun way to display new books.

      March 29, 2014
  10. Luke #

    I remember when I pointed out that putting full-size bookshelves on every external wall would provide excellent insulation, and save us quite a lot of money over the long run.

    My wife didn’t buy it. She gave me a hard limit of 100 linear feet of bookshelf in the house proper, and limited that to hardbacks. (And then stole some of that space for decorative knick-knacks!)

    But the basement will be virtually all mine. Once I finish cleaning it out.

    March 29, 2014
    • WHY are you posting here, and not cleaning?

      March 29, 2014
    • I recently figured out that if I only put books one deep– we can’t afford many shelves– I can still stack them high, and put decorative stuff in front. Not like it’s any harder to find a book than when they were two or three deep!

      March 30, 2014
  11. I have no wall space left, to speak of. No place to hang paintings or anything. It’s all shelves. And I have learned to make bookshelves because I could not find suitable ones from any store (I rent, and can’t drill too many holes on the walls so the type of wall shelves one can buy are out, if I used as many of those as I need the walls would be full of holes) ones I could put above something like the big, old dresser I have. So now there is this thing which has shelves above the dresser, ‘legs’ against the wall behind the dresser and has been fastened to the wall with four screws near the ceiling, and looks somewhat better than it sounds 🙂 (the shelves have been fastened to four planks put against the wall, and there is a small piece on the lower end so those planks look kind of like the letter L, screwed on the wall from top end. Seems to be holding well, I have had it there for five years now.).

    I also have more books than I did seven years ago when I moved in because there was a bit more space for them than I had in the old apartment. Moving again is going to be a pain, and presumably I will at some point.

    March 29, 2014
    • I did have to prune my library when I moved this last time, but it wasn’t ALL bad. You know, those titles you look at and go, what was I thinking?!

      March 29, 2014
      • Yes, that helps some. But last time I had to do a big prune I also had to get rid of lots of books I would rather have kept, and I have now reacquired some of them. But I haven’t been able to find all. Sucks.

        Until I get a good reader device (right now reading on tabletop computer, which is not the most comfortable way to do it, plus can’t take it out of apartment) I’m a bit stuck with paper versions. I do have a lot of ebooks, but without a reader you can’t take them anywhere…

        March 29, 2014
  12. mikeweatherford #

    Hi! My name is Mike, and I’m a book-hoarder. So is my wife, so we fight for shelf space. There are more than a dozen bookcases in our house from Walmart, bought when they were on sale (5-shelf, 72″ tall, 36″ wide). They’re 98% full, and ALL have books stacked on top of them, as well. The house had six wide shelves (70″, three high) built into the basement den, when we moved in. They’re all full. There are two 30″x36″, three-shelf bookcases stacked on top of each of them, and THEY’RE full. There are at least a dozen boxes around here with books in them that there’s no room on the shelves for them. There’s another bookshelf in the bedroom, stuffed full. My wife has a Kindle, and I have a Nook. My Nook is stuffed with over 1500 books, and her Kindle has another 800.

    We’re both over 65, and both of us have arthritis. We’re looking for another house to buy, since half the space in this one is in the basement, which means stairs. We want a home all on one floor, but with about the same floorspace as the house we have now. Once we find what we want and move in, we’re going to have a friend of ours build us an extension to the house — about 16’x24′ — we plan to use as a library. MAYBE we won’t run out of room… I don’t know WHAT our kids are going to do when we’re gone, since two of THEM are also hoarders.

    March 29, 2014
  13. Blume #

    Thats actually why I switched to ebooks. I ran out of room at the house. I still impulse buy tons of books I might someday read but now they take up electrons worth of space.

    March 29, 2014
    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

      I’ve gotten rid of deadtree books that I had e-versions of. I forget how many ebooks I have.

      March 29, 2014
  14. There’s a fantasy novel out there in which the story works up to a point about midway (or further) from the book when a dragon reveals that unlike the dragons who collect gems and gold, his kind collects books and scrolls. Y’know, a Book Wyrm.

    Grateful for digital because now when I horde books, it takes up much less space. Trying to transition to digital fiction, physical reference, but I hate buying a book twice so some of the fiction has to stay.

    I can’t say that not finding what I want to read drove me to write. I know I didn’t get into it until fanfiction, so I suppose what drove me to it was wanting to know what happens next?

    March 30, 2014
    • I am not surprised someone had the idea already.

      I never did get into fanfiction, but that just how my head works, it seems a lot of writers got their start that way.

      March 30, 2014
      • Oh – I hope you didn’t take it that I was suggesting anything with the first part. More sharing than anything! Besides, dragons collecting books as at least part of their horde has been around for awhile. I know your post on it got my attention, so I’m curious about yours. All for reading dragons. xD

        For awhile, I did consider writing for animation or comics – and eventually even movies. But even from the start, I couldn’t help but add my own characters to the universes I loved and explore things that the original story format probably wouldn’t have. Eventually came to realize that writing for myself would keep me from being brokenhearted when the people with the actual power in the traditional studio/house/whatever equation veto’d something I poured myself into and maybe possibly kicked me to the curb with my contributions to the whole being warped or ret’conned. Still get the urges every once in awhile to write fanfic, but since I don’t want to make it a career, it’s low priority.

        Sorry for the ramble. Need to sleep.

        March 30, 2014
    • Blume #

      It is in one of the 500 Kingdom books by Mercedes Lackey.

      March 31, 2014
      • Ah! I don’t read Lackey, which is why I didn’t recognize it.

        March 31, 2014
  15. caerrig #

    My name is Andrew, and I’m a book hoarder.
    I share a house with 18 bookshelves, many with books 2 deep, all with books stacked on top to the ceiling. I have 3 stationery cupboards in my shed which are full of paperbacks and magazines. I have 2 linen presses, one of which is full of bagged and boxed comics.
    I decided long ago that I didn’t need much furniture, in my 4 bedroom house, I have 1 bed, 2 recliner chairs (I might have a visitor one day), a dining table and chairs (I paid $5.00 for it, or I’d still be eating standing up).
    The lack of furniture does leave more space for books.
    Occasionally I think it’s time for a cull, but that just leads to me sitting down and rereading some of my old favourites. The only solution I have come up with for my problem (problem, possibly being in inverted commas) is to buy a bigger house and more bookshelves.

    March 30, 2014
  16. The one thing that makes me a little sad reading this thread is, I sure hope these vast numbers of books are getting READ. I think there’s nothing sadder than a book that nobody ever opens.

    March 31, 2014
    • I am doing my level best to read all of mine. There are times I’m overwhelmed by the influx, but then again, on a sick day I might read 6-7 to keep my mind off the discomfort. So it balances.

      March 31, 2014
  17. Ben James #

    At it’s height, my library contained approximately 30000 volumes. It is now down to 25000 volumes. I started eliminating some items after I calculated that it would take approximately 82 years to read them all if I read 1 per day. Some get sold and some get donated. I hope to eventually reduce the collection to a size that will be possible to reread in my lifetime.

    March 31, 2014
  18. Jon #

    So many kindred spirits here. I thought I had a problem with my collection of around 10K, mostly science fiction and fantasy, but now…

    March 31, 2014

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