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.