Happy Friday, everyone!
Gosh, you have no idea how glad I am that it’s finally Friday! This past week has been an absolute whirlwind. I’m currently in the process of moving, have a choir concert on Sunday, have to finish my thesis defense presentation for next week, and am absolutely paranoid because the COVID incidence rate here is almost at 500 now. Which, even more horrifyingly, is still on the low end of the Bavarian spectrum! At least the government finally announced a few measures on Wednesday, but I highly doubt they’re enough to get things under control any time soon… Also, on a completely unrelated note, some idiot stole all my bicycle lights while I was at my choir rehearsal last week 😤 Those lights only cost about 15€! What was the point of stealing them, huh? Because of you, I had to walk home in the freezing cold and take precious time out of my week to buy replacements! Next time, just ask for the money if you’re that desperate!
Still, a couple of stolen bicycle lights aren’t the end of the world, so I suppose I can put it behind me and change the subject to something I love instead: Books!!! 😍😍😍
Big surprise, I know. Who would have suspected a book blogger to love books? However, it’s precisely because I love books so much that I have a bit of a problem: I kind of have a lot of them.
I’ve been a voracious reader my whole life, which means my book collection has been growing steadily from the moment I was old enough to be read to – which, thanks to my parents being avid readers as well, was pretty much the minute I was born. With every birthday and Christmas that passed, my personal library got a little bit larger. I am literally the easiest person ever to get presents for, because as long as what you give me is something readable that I don’t already own, I will love it.
Still, until I was around twelve, the number of books I owned was very manageable. I got a couple on special occasions here and there, but the majority of what I read came from the library. Both my elementary school library and my local library had way more things to choose from than I would ever have been able to read in my lifetime, so I didn’t really see the point of owning the books myself when I could just go and check them out whenever I wanted to.
Then, however, my family moved back to Germany, and suddenly, my supply of English books was cut off almost completely. Sure, our local library didn’t have a terrible selection of books, but almost everything they did have was in German. Obviously.
Which was a problem. For one thing, I missed English. While living in the states, I still spoke German with my family, so it was never like I was cut off from the language completely. But moving back to Germany meant that English was basically annihilated from my daily life. Apart from mind-numbingly boring English classes at school, emails to friends, and the few American DVDs we had at home, there was nothing.
Also, while there is definitely also German literature out there that I love, there is no denying that the overwhelming majority of the market is dominated by English works. And unless I wanted to read them in translation – something I would never recommend if you speak the original language a story was written in 😅 – my only way to get access was to acquire copies of the books myself.
As a result, I suddenly found myself obtaining a lot more books than I ever had before. The birthday and Christmas presents got even more overwhelmingly bookish, and whatever money I earned myself was funneled straight into novels. Of course, I still did my research on which books I thought I would like, but unlike before, when I would only buy a book if I had previously borrowed it from the library and knew I would be re-reading it nonstop, I never knew exactly what I was in for. At some point, when e-books and online libraries became a thing, my rate of acquisition declined again, but I still found myself with way more books than I had ever dreamed of owning during my childhood.
And for the longest time, I didn’t mind! I loved my books! I had always dreamed of eventually having a big personal library, and every book I got felt like a step closer to achieving that dream.
Besides, a lot of thought went into everything I did buy. To this day, I have read every single book I have on my shelves. When there are more than five books on my physical TBR pile, I already start to get nervous. I have always considered myself incredibly lucky to have the resources to spend on books that I do, but it’s not like I have an endless supply of wealth, either. I’m not going to spend money on a book unless I’ve done my research, think I’m going to like it, and know I’m going to read it immediately.
So, for the most part, my shelves reflect my reading tastes pretty well. And although there are obviously a few bad eggs that didn’t end up living up to what I’d expected, I’ve always loved my collection too much to ever get rid of anything.
I just couldn’t understand how you could unhaul a book when you’d worked so hard to earn the money to buy it or when someone you loved had given it to you! Even if the book wasn’t all that great, there are still memories associated to it that make it special! There might be friends who would enjoy it more than you if you lent it to them! More books were definitely better than fewer books, I was sure, so even when my bookshelves started to become double-stacked and when extra bookshelves were added because double stacking was no longer enough, I refused to part with anything.
Until this past weekend. Like I mentioned in that somewhat ranty introduction, I’m currently in the process of moving. I’ve handed in my thesis and have no reason to live so close to my university anymore, so I thought I’d save some money on rent and temporarily move back in with my parents until I start teaching who-knows-where next spring.
There was just one teensy problem… When your books are spread across two different homes, it’s kind of easy to forget how many of them you actually have. The amount of extra stuff that was suddenly crowding my room was extremely overwhelming! So I decided it might finally be time to get rid of some of it.
And boy, it was hard! I’ve always been a huge neat freak and have never had any trouble letting go of other stuff that I own, but when confronted with my bookshelves, I think I got an inkling of what it feels like to be a hoarder. While I did end up unhauling a fair number of books, every one of them was a struggle.
Like, my Langenscheidt German-English dictionaries? I never use them. They’re too big to take anywhere, and when I’m at home, using the internet is loads faster. But those dictionaries are also one of the last things my grandmother gave me before she died. I inherited them when she cleared out her house before moving into a retirement home.
Or How to Think Like Shakespeare. While I did think it was interesting, I just don’t think I’m ever going to reread it. But it was also one of the first books I was ever sent to review for this blog, and the author was genuinely one of the nicest people I’ve ever exchanged emails with!
Or Children of Blood and Bone. I didn’t like the book much, but a lot of my friends did. And they were so happy when I was able to lend them a copy!
I think you get the picture 🙈 I was able to come up with excuses for keeping basically everything, even when I was pretty sure I wouldn’t reread any of it. In some cases, the more rational part of my mind eventually won over, and I did end up parting with the books after all. But not always. I mean, I kept Heart of Darkness and Cursed Child, even though those are probably my most hated books of all time! What is wrong with me??!
To be honest, my reasoning sounds stupid even to me. I kept Heart of Darkness because it’s such a famous classic that it might not hurt to own a copy as a future English teacher. You know, in case any of my future students ever read it in their free time and want to discuss it.
That isn’t that unlikely, is it? Also, I have extremely fond memories of ranting about the book with some of my university friends 😁 And I need a copy on hand in case I need to find quotes that will convince people of its awfulness!
The same goes for Cursed Child. Even though I will angrily glare at anyone who dares to suggest that book is canon, I just can’t get rid of something somehow associated with Harry Potter. Even if I only need it to prove to people why it contradicts everything the original series is about.
I know. I’m weird. Trust me, I’m aware of this. Those are not the only dumb choices I made. I kept the Red Rising series because my ex-boyfriend loved it. I kept the Red Queen series because the powers in the first book reminded me of this game my childhood best friend and I used to play, and because I bought the second book on vacation in England and it reminds me of the time I spent there. I kept the Delirium series because I liked it back in the day. But do I like any of these books now? Not really.
See what I mean? Unfortunately, I have a very good memory of where I got the books on my shelves, where I first read them, and, if they were presents, who gave them to me. Which makes it so much harder to let go, even if I didn’t like them! 😫
Also, my brain is very treacherous. Even if I don’t like the books now, it says, what if I do in the future? Like, I wasn’t a huge fan of Jane Eyre when I first read it, but now it’s one of my absolute favorite books. Or what if I have kids someday, and they want a variety of things to choose from? Maybe I should keep everything, just in case…
It’s bad. I’m way too sentimental for this unhauling business! In fact, there are quite a number of factors other than a book’s lack of quality that greatly influenced how easily I felt I could get rid of it:
- The shorter the book has been in my possession, the easier it is to let go, because I haven’t had as much time to become attached to it yet.
- Getting rid of books I bought myself is a thousand times easier than getting rid of those that were gifted to me.
- If I don’t own the complete series, I don’t feel as bad about letting the books go. I somehow find it incredibly annoying to have incomplete series on my shelves, but if I didn’t even like the first book, I’m obviously not buying the rest! So banishing book one instead seems like a fair compromise. Sometimes.
- In a similar vein, I hate splitting up series or companion novels! For example, I love Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I have very lukewarm feelings towards The Upside of Unrequited and Leah on the Offbeat. But I’m obviously not parting with the latter two! They go with Simon!
- If I don’t remember much about the book, it’s actually easier to part with it than if I hated it. If I hated it, I somehow feel as though it might be a good idea to keep it, just so I can go back and check why I hated it so much 😅
- If Scribd has the e-book or my library has the book, I can get rid of my copy way more easily! After all, I’ll still have access to the story.
- I have no problem whatsoever getting rid of multiple copies. I usually do that right when I’m gifted a duplicate anyway. I did still have a couple of Shakespeare doubles this time around, but at least parting with those was easy!
- It does make me feel slightly better to know that I will be donating the books I’m getting rid of, because at least then they will make someone else happy!
Anyway, I hope you’ve heard enough to know that I’m nuts 😂 I definitely need to get better at this unhauling thing in the future, simply because my bookshelves are still overwhelmingly full. But it’s a start!
Still, I would love to know if any of you guys have these kinds of problems. Are any of you as stupidly attached to your books as I am? Or do you have no trouble at all letting go? Or are you simply not at the overflowing-shelves stage yet? Please tell me in the comments!
If you’ve got any experience unhauling, I would love to know how the process works for you. Or tell me how you go about buying books in the first place! Do you research them, or is a pretty cover already enough to convince you? Do you always read books immediately after you buy them? Do you have a good local library, or do you relate to my language issues? Let’s discuss!