Too Many Books

With a house move imminent it has become apparent that I own far too many books.

Normally I can hide the overflow with a little creativity. Packing the shelves so there is two rows of books, not one, and more on top if there’s space ? Normal practice here at Casa De Libros. Persuading myself that a stack of books on the coffee table is not a mess but vital room ornamentation? Of course. Stashing books in wardrobes,  spare bags and occasionally, when desperate, the bathroom cabinet? Well, let’s just say you’ll never find yourself caught short of a read in our house, even if you are caught short in other ways.

Even my ereader offers no respite. The darn thing is stuffed to its electronic gills with books I haven’t read yet. And the massive piles of books doesn’t deter me from getting out there and buying more. Sometimes I’ll come home and want to curl up with a book, and I’ll find I’ve nothing there I want to read. To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, it is possible to have 57 bookshelves and nothing on. And the obvious solution to that? More books?

It wouldn’t be too bad if I would just get rid of them after I read them, but I part with my books with about as much enthusiasm as Clive Parker pays Carbon Tax, even if they weren’t actually any good.  I just don’t know when to junk in a bad read, let the book go and get it the hell out of my house. I have a big pile of “to finish someday” books that has been teetering on the bookcase so long the base ones are becoming fossil fuels, and I still balk at getting rid of them.

No matter how battered, how biased, how badly written and fundamentally unlovable a book, I find myself loathe to just throw it out. I feel little better about giving them away; I could donate it to hospital, but feel guilty at the idea of inflicting some of these travesties on people who are already suffering. If they’re lying there in bed unable to get the strength up to throw the offending tomes at the wall, does donating books count as a decent act or are you actively torturing people?

Of course, not all these books are actually bad books, some are just books that I didn’t like. The long, long list of books I didn’t enjoy reading includes The Great Gatsby, Lord of the Rings and over half of any 100 best books of all time lists, so I’m not setting myself up as an authority on what good writing is. I own plenty of books that – while not my particular cup of tea – I can certainly see other people enjoying. Wolf Hall, the winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize and the 2010 Boring Sadhbh to Bits Award,  is still lurking on my shelves but I can think of a few people who’d probably adore it. Same for several biographies and countless fantasy books.

But how to give it to them? There’s always that awkward moment you think someone else is a good fit for a book you hated and you try to gift it to them and they, of course, ask why. “Did you enjoy it?” “No, I hated it. Weak characters, painfully verbose prose and a plot so unlikely it could have been written by Michael Bay in crayon. …um. But I think you will like it?”

Well, at least with the house move I have a cast-iron excuse to deflect this conversation. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the book, it’s that we don’t have enough space in the new place. If that fails, I’m not sure what the answer is. Possibly more bookcases. Or perhaps I should finally give in, and move into a library.

Hand-Hammering Whacky-Whacky

This week I committed the book-loving equivalent of ‘I can’t. I’m washing my hair’ by switching off my phone for a day or two and spending Friday night and Saturday buying, carting, unpacking, and assembling a giant bookcase.

 

I’d waited some three months for it, as Ikea was, for some reason, having trouble sourcing the bookcases from Sweden or wherever they’re manufactured (and it’s probably best I don’t think about where, because it’s probably some poor, third-world nation). Then I’d waited some more as the eight—just eight!—they got in the initial shipment were snapped up before you could say ‘flat pack’.

I finally scammed my father to drive down to the giant warehouse that is Ikea (seriously, I’m wondering if that building would be visible from space) and load the 100-ish kilograms of flat-packed bits that would, if we managed to follow the word-less instruction booklet, make up my much sought-after, much-needed bookcase. I say much needed, in particular, because my pantry is filled rather awkwardly not with food but books.

 

I was patting myself on the back for being smart about taking my dad, having learnt my lesson that Ikea staff will not help you even when it’s quite apparent that you’re on your own and you’re struggling. Particularly when you might have grounds for an OHS-style lawsuit because you’ve had to single-handedly had to lift and cart the frame, slats, and mattress for your new, queen-sized bed.

 

That didn’t mean we were immune to some Ikea ridiculousness, however, including getting lost and disoriented in the store while attempting to execute a savvy ‘shortcut’, battling a trolley with wayward wheels, and then almost getting run over by said wayward trolley when I tripped over my handbag (which I’d placed on the ground while concentrating on steadying the trolley-load of stuff). Note to self: never stand downhill from the fully laden trolley.

In truth, the fun and games had only just begun. Cue no fewer than three people to assemble the bookcase. Admittedly, our efforts were hampered by the lack of a rubber hammer or a small-enough electric drill bit, which resulted in a lot of hand-hammering whacky-whacky and some excruciating labour-intensive Allen Key efforts.

 

Throw in a dog whose favourite game is to hide the ball in hard-to-reach places and then dance around barking excitedly and generally getting under your feet—the in-progress bookcase proved an irresistible feat. Add in some poor spatial awareness while concentrating on where to stick those accursed little wooden pegs, which saw me quite literally head-butt the oh-so-solid wall (post-headbutt head holding pictured) … and, well, you can imagine what the scenes were like when we tried to put this thing together.

There was also an awkward moment when my mother encouraged my to put a book on the freshly assembled case and the book she handed me was Spirit Bound, from Richelle Mead‘s Vampire Academy series. It’s a great, fabulous, you-should-totally-read-it book, but it has the most cringe-worthy cover ever–kind of like a teenage, vampire Mills and Boon.

 

In spite of those headache-riddled challenges, the fact that Ikea instructions are pretty shabby, and the fact that we ended up with a bag of suspiciously left-over bits, the bookcase is now assembled, relatively straight, and upstanding. Some of the books are now out of my cupboards and there’s a whopping big space in the middle for where I could put a TV if I had one.

Methinks I’d rather fill that space and the rest of the bookcase with books. I’m off to spend my Boomerang Books voucher …