That's what I was thinking when I was reorganising my 600-book library yesterday, and this New York Times article seem to echo my thoughts: Books You Can Live Without.
People -- some authors, some not -- were asked how they would go about spring cleaning their libraries. Some admit that a lot of the books they have could go, but they're there because "I like the idea of it being on my shelf." How true. I get a little thrill and my pride flares up when my guests freeze in my library and exhale in amazement: "Oh my God, that's a lot of books."
But I've come to the cold, practical conclusion that "less is indeed more":
1. My library is my favourite part of my home, but making it look presentable is a bitch. For months now, books lived on the floor in half-torn paper bags -- my futile attempt to organise my books into "to donate" and "to sell" stacks. With my sister coming back from the States soon, I thought I'd better do something before she comes home and thinks I've been living in a pig sty. My best friend told me once that looking at my library is like looking into the eye of chaos. I agree -- with books spilling out and shelved without much of a system, I have a migraine just looking at it.
To start my arduous task, I had to draw a chart to segregate my books into "have not read" and "have read but will read again" and "will never read again".
Shifting around a few hundred books is a good workout though, but it's been two days, and I'm still not even half way done! I think I need a month to do this right.
2. What do you do with books you no longer want to read again? Speaking of books I will never read again -- why did I buy them in the first place?
If I asked myself some really tough questions, like "Would I read this book again?", 3/4 of my collection would've either been donated or sold. But the problem with being in Malaysia is that it's extremely difficult to sell your books. Most Malaysians are just blardy stingy.
I once nearly choked when someone demanded that I sell her my brand-new, donkey-ear-less Jodi Picoult novel for Rm5. And I already priced the book at a steal: RM10.
But if you want to sell your novels briskly in the Malaysian 2nd hand market, be prepared to sell your books for a song. Some 2nd hand bookstores even buy your books by weight! I once sold about 5kg of books for ... RM10! Heartache!
3. Oy, the dust. When books get old, they get moldy, dusty and smell funny. I'm allergic to dust, so I'd be sneezing my head off when I read my old books. As a result, I have to sell many of my too-old books because I literally can't stand them anymore. And I've not even mentioned the creepy bugs in them.
I may soon take the cruel step of selling or donating off 3/4 of my library and turn to the sterile but dust-free world of eBooks.
I forsee a future where my library would just be two simple shelves containing well-preserved hardcover books I worship (James Herriott's books, World War Z!) and read again and again, while an ever-shifting presence of rented or borrowed books will occupy some of my shelves.
And I'd be reading most of my difficult-to-obtain books from my Sony eBook reader. More on that later. :)