I had to cull my keeper shelf recently. Actually, I have more than one shelf but they were all full. How to divest oneself of books? Each one I took off the shelf inspired a memory or recalled an old friend or shouted “classic.” I kept putting them back. Eventually, I filled a shopping bag with books I’d gotten at workshops, old Christmas gifts and a few mistaken purchases. Then I made a trek to my local used book store. (Photo above)
The whole experience got me thinking about the life of books. They come home from the book store all crisp and new — no coffee stains on the cover, no dog-eared pages. They have that new book smell. What a treat.
Some I will read over and over until the covers fall off. Some will get passed on to friends. Some will still be on the shelf when my executor has to get rid of them. Many, though, go to the used book store.
Our town has a reputation for being a “book town,” so there are many used bookstores to choose from. The general one, seen here, is run by a woman who used to own a new book store. She’s a genius at knowing everything on the shelves and being able to put her hand on just the book for you. Every time I take in a bundle to drop off, I come out with others. My goal is to have a net reduction in books, but it’s not easy.
We’ve also got this one — a more specialized store with lots of antique books, maps, globes . . . Another dangerous place for a book lover to spend time. Many of the offerings on these shelves are no longer available new. Notice the shelves themselves are old-fashioned bookcases with the window that drops down to keep the dust off the shelf. This is a place to search out old records, travel journals, and historic photos — along with a few current spy novels.
Russell’s in Victoria has just set a Guinness Book of Records for the tallest tower of Guinness Books. They reached six metres. You can see the remnants of the tower in this photo. The undertaking was to mark their move into new digs. The old store across the street was a bit of a rabbit warren, but with it’s own charm. The new store is spacious with an escalator so the hunt for your favourite author is not so daunting.
Then we have the “little” libraries popping up on street corners and rural cross-roads. These are charming little creations where one can leave a book or take a book. The inventory is limited and often eccentric, but still the books go on to another reader. There’s even a take and leave shelf at my husband’s marina. Most thrift stores will accept a few volumes. No one likes to throw away a book, least of all me.
Our local library has decided that books are low on its list of priorities. They want to be a community centre instead. For lovers of libraries, this policy is anathema. You can see in this photo that there is seating space and computer terminals but not much in the way of books. Maybe that’s why we have such a rich offering of second-hand book stores.
We used to have a book bin that accepted old books and distributed them to remote communities who were happy to have them in their libraries or schools. That service is now defunct so in my area, at least, books eventually end up in a recycle depot where they are trashed. I know the result is recycled paper, but it still makes me wince to think of a book becoming compost.
E-books obviate the need to physically dispose of books we no longer want, but from the groaning shelves in our used book stores it seems the paper book is still popular. Where else will you get gilt-edged pages and engraved frontispieces?
So, my love affair with books goes on. What about you? What do you do with old books you can no longer keep?