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Kelly J. Cooper

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Thought Experiment [Feb. 2nd, 2011|05:08 am]
Kelly J. Cooper

In a previous entry, johnromkey proposed the following...
    Thought experiment:

    What would happen to you if you simply eliminated all the books in the house? No sorting, no decision making, a suitably responsible destination already chosen for them so that you couldn't agonize about that.
It occurs to me that other folks might be curious about that, so I'm putting the response I wrote to his comment up here as more fodder for discussion/food for thought:
    I've been thinking about why I buy books instead of getting them from the library and trying to explore more about why I have so many books & such a hard time letting go of them.

    When I was a kid, we weren't poor but we didn't have much money. I read voraciously from the library and what books we could afford to buy were usually fantasy books in a long series that we'd either be unlikely to find at the library or that I so desperately wanted, that we got them.

    Now, I truly wish I'd kept even the most basic journal of titles & authors of the books I read from the library back then because the gap in my knowledge/memory of not being able to remember them all drives me BUGFUCK. I have a real problem with not trusting my memory and desperately wanting/needing tangibles. I've managed to trim that down with regard to traveling: I usually get a really good picture book of the city and a cute knick-knack or scarf and that, along with my guidebooks, is usually enough for me.

    But there is so much in a book that it's hard for me to let them go.

    Now that we've established that it would be really painful for me to let them go completely, we could consider the next logical step. Let's say that instead of giving them away I were to put them in storage.

    The same problem as having them in my house actually applies. I wouldn't know what books I had or exactly where they were. I would still need to inventory them before I put them into the storage space.

    The mental burden of not being able to find the books I want to find when I want to find them is starting to outweigh the lack of energy about doing anything about it.

    On the plus side, as I'm sorting books hither and thither, I'm getting a much better feel for books that I would be OK with going into storage versus books that I desperately want on my shelves. I'm also figuring out that some books I want on my shelves for themselves, and some because they are anthologies and I want to read more by particular authors in them.

    And I'm trying to resist the urge to buy so many books, especially when I can see the evidence with my own eyes that I often fail to read them all. I have managed to re-invoke the pleasure I had as a kid saving up for a specific book or album and then enjoying it thoroughly by forcing myself to plan what book to buy and severely limit myself on spontaneously buying random books that catch my fancy.

    I'm hoping that once I record data about them, books I'd be willing to put into storage can be converted to books I'd be willing to sell or even give away.

    It's a process and it's under constant reevaluation. Especially with that fuckin' Hoarders on TV reminding me how close to certifiable I am.
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: istemi
2011-02-02 12:15 pm (UTC)
How do you feel about giving away duplicates, if there were nothing special about the different copies?
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-02-04 09:40 am (UTC)
Giving away duplicates is not a problem. The problem is finding them.

If I do find them, they'll go in the SELL box. Or the DONATE box if they're in bad shape.

I've only found maybe 4 duplicate comics in the four boxes I just finished organizing (issues, that is). I'm hoping to organize across a bunch of boxes and isolating more dupes. I actually HAVE an entire box of comic duplicates, but lord only knows how I'll figure out which one it is... I don't recall labeling it or anything. (It's from many years ago, before I realized the wonders of labeling.)

I found 3 duplicate collected editions of comics (the trade paperback type collections). I took the versions that were in good shape (perfect shape actually), and brought them back to the shop & rang them in as returns, updated inventory, then reshelved them.
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[User Picture]From: infinitehotel
2011-02-02 02:13 pm (UTC)
I've got a similar relationship to books but I wound up having to do a massive amount of offcrufting when I moved. I'm a chronic rereader and I keep most everything so just getting enough room to set up the bookshelves around the precarious towers of boxes was enough to make me consider a little culling.

In the end, it wasn't that aggressive. About a dozen boxes, almost entirely things I bought on a whim or used or read half and then decided it wasn't worth the time. There were a lot more them than I thought, and I didn't touch anything I'd even half-enjoyed. (The art books for example are HEAVY and rarely consulted but they stayed; the Charlaine Harris boxed set though? Gone without a second thought and haven't missed it.) I've recently run out of bookshelf space again and another thinning is imminent. This time it'll probably be some of the mass market paperbacks and old college texts from the 80s, most of which weren't really worth keeping even then.





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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-02-04 09:43 am (UTC)
I tried to outcruft when I moved out of the Ranch and into this house, but I failed.

I have four (I think?) crates of old college texts & notes. I suspect I'll ditch some of the texts and perhaps scan some of the notes. Or at least make myself a list of classes I took, since I regularly try & refer back to that information with limited success. Once I get to them. Which will probably be a while since they're on the second floor & lowest on the priority list.

I suspect I have at least a couple boxes worth of books I don't really want. But finding 'em is key.
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[User Picture]From: zanzjan
2011-02-02 02:44 pm (UTC)
It's only in the last few years that I've been able to let myself stop reading a book before I've finished it; I used to read to the end no matter how godsawful bad it was. And this year I actually managed to pack some of them up and freecycle them away, which was a *huge* thing for me.

Books are hard, really hard, more than any other thing, because so much of my life has been lived in them. I'm a pack rat, and I'm a compulsive Keeper of Information, and books trigger both like nothing else. (And yeah, I've got a database of all of them, including when I've read them. It's how I learned Perl, really.)
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-02-04 09:45 am (UTC)
It's only in the last few years that I've been able to let myself stop reading a book before I've finished it

Yes! This is so hard!

And you've described almost exactly my relationship with books as well.

I am deeply amused that your book addiction caused you to learn Perl.

I'll try to remember to note WHEN I read them... that might be useful.
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[User Picture]From: lillibet
2011-02-02 03:34 pm (UTC)
I think the cataloging and boxing makes a lot of sense. For me, what has worked is limiting myself by space. I have all the bookcases I am going to have and when my books don't fit on them, I prune. This has also led me to limit my buying to one spree at the UW bookstore each year and to use the library in between. When I finish a book, I think whether I can conceive of wanting to re-read it, or whether I might want to lend it to someone else to read. Most of the ones that fail that test go to my sister, unless I have a specific recipient in mind for it. Over time my collection is getting better and better, while remaining the same size. Now that Jason has bestowed upon me a Kindle, I am looking forward to reading more things that way. But! I have been recording all my books on Goodreads, so that I can figure out if I've already read something or find it again if need be.

Good luck, both with getting control of the physical books, and with figuring out as you go along what is important about them and how to manage that aspect of it.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-02-04 09:48 am (UTC)
Using your space sounds like an excellent way to give yourself limitations. But your house is always in such lovely order... my house (any living space of mine, in fact) has never achieved the level of NICENESS yours has.

I think it'll work for me to some extent - i.e., if books are piling up on the staircase, it's time for them to find shelves or leave the house. But I'm definitely going to need the cataloging before I can really figure out my best working limitations.

Thank you!
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[User Picture]From: lillibet
2011-02-04 02:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I was a really messy kid who hit cockroach-baiting slobbery my freshman year and recoiled into organization. Plus, y'know, cleaning lady :)
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[User Picture]From: wonderreader
2011-02-02 11:38 pm (UTC)

eliminate all of the books

When I read johnromkey's comment aobut getting rid of all the books - I had a very visceral reaction and did a mental "gasp" thinking NO NO - and then I realized that I HAD gotten rid of all of my books - almost. When we moved into the RV there was no room for them. And infact now a good portion of my clutter is piles of books - mostly on the couch - what is this with books? Half read, not ready to read yet, want to re-read; why is it so hard to let them go?
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-02-04 09:50 am (UTC)

Re: eliminate all of the books

why is it so hard to let them go?

Too many reasons to count. They're places to escape to; they hold the memories of how we felt when we read them; they contain people - characters for whom we develop attachments and hopes; some of them capture the zeitgeist of a period of our lives; some of them are eternally fresh and friendly places to visit; some of them challenge our thinking so thoroughly as to inspire a reevaluation and we don't want to lose the inspiration for that...

I could go on and on, but I'm actually getting tired.
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[User Picture]From: muffyjo
2011-02-03 01:27 am (UTC)
Would you be up for a sorting party? Not to get rid of them, but to input them into a database for you and to organize a bookcase of them? Might that take some of the pressure off? One year my mom and I alphabetized all my grandfather's books by author and made index cards with all the information on them. The modern solution would be to enter them into a personal database, of course. We could pull up a google spreadsheet and make that happen, then you'd have it backed up and available from wherever you were?

Just an idea. And it would be fun if multiple people came over, partnered up and made the work go faster, ya know? Serve some edibles and you might just have a geek-worthy party!
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-02-04 09:52 am (UTC)
I could be up for a sorting party once I get the living room under control!

Right now, there's no room to do anything in there but skirt around the boxes and shore up the piles that are sliding.

I will certainly keep the idea of having a small party, with snacks for all and paperwork/pens/clipboards for pairs of people in mind for the near future! Thank you!
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[User Picture]From: lillibet
2011-02-04 02:56 pm (UTC)
I'd definitely be up for that, when you get to that point. It would be fun--it's always easier to clean someone else's stuff--and I'd be really happy to help when it's useful.
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[User Picture]From: whitebird
2011-02-03 06:10 am (UTC)
Since starting in on the Hardy Boy books fairly early on, I like'y have 99.5% of the books I've ever read still. Better, I can lay my hand on probably 85% of them at whim. The remainder are in a few boxes in the garage that I could easily figure out in a flurry of activity over an afternoon.

I like my books, and I intend to keep them as long as I can. (And I'm currently re-reading the Honor Herrington series, and having a blast of it.)

I've thought about it, and I can get rid of all (or most, there are actually some which are valuable for either monetary or emotional reasons, but most are just paperbacks) of them pretty much at a moments notice, but it would take a drastic change in my lifestyle for me to have that desire. For some reason, it does give me a piece of security that I can put my hands on Bladerunner, by David E. Nourse, which I first read back in junior high, most likely. (Nothing to do with the movie, other than having the title first. Neat book, though.)
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From: allessindra
2011-02-03 09:07 pm (UTC)
David Nourse? The last name sounds right, but the first doesn't. I thought it was Alan...

Yes, I read that, about the same time period. I was SO hyped when I heard about the movie... and so bummed when I realized it was a *different story*.

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[User Picture]From: whitebird
2011-02-05 05:20 am (UTC)
Yup, you are correct, Alan E. Nourse. A good book. Not sure why I was thinking it was David.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-02-04 09:54 am (UTC)
I like'y have 99.5% of the books I've ever read still.

I find that I am very jealous of this fact. How did you manage it?

I've never read the other Bladerunner. Huh.
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[User Picture]From: whitebird
2011-02-05 05:19 am (UTC)
I managed it by not getting rid of any books.

Here is a listing of most of my books as of about 5 years ago when I stopped updating it for some reason. (It started as a manually updated list, and then I took some output from Readerware and cleaned it up some.) There's maybe two or three boxes of early books not on that list, such as the Lincoln Conspiracy, Watership Down, The Funniest Funny Car, and a bunch of others that aren't on it. And then there's a bunch that I've acquired since I stopped updating it and started being lame about it.

The original Bladerunner is really a not bad book. Short, and so not about anything the movie was about, but that's okay. And it is indeed written by Alan E. Nourse. My memory made a mistake when writing the original comment.
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From: allessindra
2011-02-03 09:12 pm (UTC)
Almost all my clutter is books. And some furniture. For me, there's a strong element of "Keep it for the next generation" and a strong element of "But I don't want to have to BUY IT AGAIN!" which is my feeling about the growing standard of "If I haven't used it in 6 months I don't need it and should throw it out." I have LOTS of things I haven't used in 6 months. I got (whatever) for a reason, and if I hadn't thought the reason good enough to spend the money, I wouldn't have bought it in the first place -- I would have borrowed it, or rented it, or something.

I've seen too many changes in storage technology to believe that I'm going to be able to read a book on a computer or ebook or something in 5-15 years. A BOOK -- a physical thing in my hands that doesn't need electricity or anything -- will still be usable.

I do need more bookshelves tho. And yes, I've thought about the tension between finite feet of bookshelves and a life of infinite book buying.

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[User Picture]From: kjc
2011-02-04 09:55 am (UTC)
Yeah, the "I haven't used it" period for me needs to be at least 5 years, closer to 10 for clothing.

I'm not really into the ebook movement yet, but I imagine it might be a good way to preview things that I want to own forever.

As for more bookshelves... I'm starting to worry about the structural integrity of the floor where most of my bookshelves are... don't forget that part!
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