On Being an Ex-Book Hoarder

Basically all my life, I’ve been “Bess, you know, the one with all the books.”

My mom loves to tell the story of my first grade homework, which was to count the number of books I owned and report backs. As she tells it “We got to 111 and I realized we needed to start going to the library.”

(We later stopped going to the library because I was caught reading the romance section. I’d already finished sci fi and fantasy, YA, and kids.)

So yeah, books are a pretty massive part of my life and my identity. Ergo, I’ve always known that when I grew up I’d have a massive library. People stopped helping us move because of the endless numbers of book boxes. When we moved to Maryland, the number was somewhere north of 2,000. (Books, not boxes.) I was extremely proud of that. Like a person with long hair, my massive collection of books was integral to my identity.

But like some long-haired humans, my priorities changed.

I’d built this incredible library (complete with chandelier and window seat) in our Maryland house. Bookcases lined the walls. The light wood floor made it open and warm.

But I wasn’t happy. I didn’t like owning a house and feeling weighed down and trapped. In previous years of apartment living, it had been pretty simple to uproot myself and move wherever the wind blew. I wanted that feeling back. (Kevin did too.)

My priorities had shifted. All those books, carefully collected over the years, felt more like an anchor holding me back. They weren’t my pride and joy anymore. But they were still part of my identity and I didn’t know who I’d be without them.

I talked it over (at length) with a variety of different people. Then I started culling.

The first round was the easiest. I chucked the books that I kept like hunting trophies. “I read this and killed it. Now I never have to read it again.” That cleared out a few hundred books.

After that it was round after round of books that I liked okay, or kept because I had read them, but wasn’t going to read again.

I’m now down to somewhere in the 500s, a number that I’m pretty comfortable with. They won’t travel with me for short-term moves, but they’ll come out for all more permanent moves. This is the number of books that I love, reread constantly, and would genuinely be upset to not have ready access to.

The point here though, isn’t to flaunt my biblioholism. (Well, maybe it is a little.) It’s because I see many of posts from booklr that are about how many bookcases you need/how many books you own and it’s a bragging point. Which is totally cool. Books are amazing and it’s incredible to be surrounded by them.

But it’s also cool to not be surrounded by them. There can be a lot of pressure in a community to conform to the standards of its most popular members and it’s hard to manage your response to that pressure.

If you can’t afford to be a book hoarder, don’t want to have five million boxes to haul every time you move, or simply don’t want to be that way any more, that’s completely fine. It’s a bit of a transition, but ultimately it’s so much better to be who you are rather than continue to follow the pressure to be who you were. Like cutting off three feet of hair, you’ll be amazed at how light you feel. (At least, I did.)

And be gentle on yourself when you make cuts. If you’re not ready to let go of a book, keep it. Regretting a book you can’t get back isn’t worth the extra space on your shelf. You collection will naturally settle into a level that’s comfortable for you.

It’s good to check in with yourself periodically (those who can’t do, teach) about the goals you have and rules you’re conforming to, just to make sure they’re rules and goals you’re still comfortable with. Or at the very least, to notice when they’re not anymore.

Anyone else have a “confessions of an ex-something” tale? How did people take it when you changed in front of them? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. My mss is at 54,000 words!

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Judging your age on book characters

I’m hitting my quarter-life crisis a few years later than most of my friends, but the thing that set me off was a re-read of Fruits Basket.

A young character refers to an older character as “oji-san” and the protagonist is shocked because “oji-san” is only 27.

I’m 28. When I first read these books, I was the same age as the protagonist (high school). I am now older than oji-san.  In the eyes of the young character, I’m pretty sure that makes me an antique.

I’m also the same age as Phryne Fisher (of the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries fame).

Soon I’ll be looking on all these characters as “youths” and shaking my cane at them. Who do I have left to admire and look up to? Miss Marple?

(I feel old.)

Did anyone else have an age-related crisis thanks to a book or series? What was it? I love messing with my emotions! Let me know in the comments.

P.S. My mss is at 51,000 words!

#BookHunt

Marcus Tullius Cicero (apparently a person worth quoting) is said to have said “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

At first glance, I thought this was a pretty cool quote.  After all, I like a lot of other book quotes. “If you go home with someone and they don’t have any books, don’t fuck ’em.” -John Waters

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” -Ernest Hemingway

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Phryne Fisher

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The header for PhryneFisher.com

The Phryne Fisher series are traditional, rather than cozy, because there is both blood AND sex on the page, but the most incredible thing is how character-driven these books are.

Most mysteries are interesting for the plots.  You want to know who did The Crime and why.  That’s why I find so few mysteries rereadable.  Once I know the answer, what do I care about discovering it again?  (I struggle with this in my books, not going to lie.)

But Phryne is different.

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