Confessions of a Book Hoarder

My dad was a packrat.  He saved paper in any form.

He saved magazines.  At any time in my childhood I could peruse five years of Newsweek, Grit, Ebony and Moody Monthly.  

He saved receipts.  A box in the pantry was always overflowing with receipts from Jewel, Dominics, Kroger and A & P.  This seemed very normal to me; as a young bride I started my own box overflowing with Safeway and Albertsons receipts.  When I witnessed my mother-in-law crumple a receipt and throw it away, I asked the obvious in a shocked voice, “Did you just throw that away?”  When she asked for a reason to keep a record of a milk and eggs purchase, I was unable to produce one. I quickly converted to the ranks of receipt crumplers.

He saved books.  Bless his soul, he saved books.  When my dad died his personal library was estimated at 6,000 volumes.  Then we discovered that he had double-shelved books and  the number was closer to 12,000.  To his credit, he knew where they were and could find what he was looking for.  There was a shelf of books in Russian.  He knew several languages, but Russian wasn’t one of them!  That, my friend, is an optimist!

This is not a bash-your-dad post.  It is from my dad that I gained a love of books, of literature, of the printed page.  You could not pry from me the books with his inscription on the flyleaf.  Nevertheless, I am my father’s daughter.  My name is Carol and I’m a bookaholic.

But I have been probing my thinking with questions.  I’ve been processing it with a dear friend in a parallel situation. As I approach the half-century mark I am faced with those pesky limitations of mortality. 

When, exactly, do I plan to read all these books? 

Which ones I will read again? 

Which are treasures to be passed down to my children?

Which (how many) books do they really want?

Because the cold, hard truth is that my father’s books became a burden.  People spent long hours– days, weeks — cataloging, sorting, and packaging those books.  Part of his library was a legacy; an even larger part was a headache. 

I will continue to buy books.  If my public library was more extensive I wouldn’t need to buy so many. But I won’t keep every book I buy.  Read it, write down quotes, and Let. It. Go.  I intend to continue the weeding process and to clear out the wood, straw and stubble leaving space for the gold.   


7 thoughts on “Confessions of a Book Hoarder

  1. I think I must be a packrat, too.  And I love books.  I have not come up with a neat, organizational system.  Hence I am oftentimes the only one who can locate a volume.  One day we hope to have a library.  Right now most of our books are on shelves in the basement.  My parents have thousands of books, which I expect will present some interesting discussions when they break up housekeeping.
    Dana in GA

  2. I wish I had a copy of the library’s Dewey Decimal System- wouldn’t it be great to have my home library organized in the same way?  Then my kids could find the science books easily wherever they went.
    My kids love a series called “Geronimo Stilton”, and our local librarians bought the entire series once they saw how enthusiastic my kids were.  Wow, we have great librarians here!  The newest addition came out last month and is only a few dollars on Amazon- part of my March budget will be to buy it, then donate it to the library to keep their set up to date once my kiddos are finished with it.  Keeps the clutter down here at home, too.

  3. Interesting discussions – Dana you crack me up! R1, I read that Laura Bush organizes her personal library according to the Dewey Decimal System. And what a great idea to keep the library’s collection up. Our library has also been wonderful about ordering things they knew my kids would like.Danny, have you seen David’s books? Yikes! I only saw his book room the day before I left. I declared that I would organize his books on my next visit. He has John Grisham novels next to commentaries on II Timothy, a Greek lexicon next to Chekov. He’s excited – and I truly love to organize and handle books.

  4. Carol, I can see that you and I have a lot in common – at least where it comes to books. I keep buying them and have far more than I can ever read. And my “system” – well, the less said the better.Btw, thank you for the sweet comment you left on my site. I am so enjoying getting to know you.

  5. I wrote a comment late last night and I thought for sure I clicked submit…!Anyway, I, too am a bookaholic. I LOVE to handle and look at books. And buy books. But I’ve decided to limit my purchases this year but assigning myself only books off my shelves to read. That should take a couple of years at my speed. Oh, and I use to love reading Moody Monthly!I only discovered it in the late ’70’s and would love to enjoy it again. Too bad it is not around any longer.

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