The thin edge of the wedge

These days, I don’t get as much time to read as I’d like, and sometimes I take up to two weeks to finish a book. About two thirds of what I read is SF, the rest being a mixture of mystery fiction, thrillers, fantasy and non fiction (mainly historical, anthropological or popular science). As a rule, Beloved reads slightly more slowly, though his reading matter is almost exclusively SF, in which our tastes largely overlap. We’re both happy to borrow books as a way of trying something new. As a result, I’d estimate the household has to find room for about 30 books a year.

Or rather, it doesn’t.

Many of my friends never throw a book out and, as a result, have book-wall insulation. Some of them have extended their houses in order to accommodate their libraries. I understand this lifestyle choice but, with both of us having other space-consuming hobbies, we’ve gone down a different path. We have six bookshelves in the house, no more and no less. One, in the garret, has reference works for me: an atlas, star-maps, lightweight works on history and the sciences; those ‘How To’ books worth keeping (such as Ursula Le Guin’s ‘Steering the Craft’  and Orson Scott Card’s ‘How to Write Science Fiction’) plus books relevant to whatever I’m working on (currently stuff on the South Seas). We also have two large communal bookshelves, containing hardbacks and non-fiction, plus three smaller ones of paperbacks. And that’s it. 

In order to fit incoming books into the space available, we hold a periodic ‘book cull’, a process which gets harder each year, as the number of core books that we both want to keep grows. And then there’s the books only one of us considers essential … domestics have ensued. With piles of books beside two bookcases, we were overdue a cull, and I had it planned one as part of the Great Winter De-Clutter.

Sadly, that project has had to be scaled down for chronological reasons. Finishing the first draft of Guardians mattered more. But we did clear out the loft, removing a surprisingly large number of boxes, mostly empty, many of which went towards the mother-in-law’s house move. This leaves us with an almost empty loft, and several sturdy boxes.

You can see where this is heading, can’t you?

Yes, I’m archiving books. I’ve only allowed myself one box, and it’s for those remaining books from my youth that I can’t bear to throw out. Growing up in the 70s and 80s my choice of spec.fic was severely limited, and I did read some crap. But I also found some classics during yesterday’s writing avoidance clear-out: Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Rosemary Sutcliffe, plus early Anne McCaffrey, some of the less dubious Moorcock’s and my original copy of Lord of the Rings (we’ve got another 2), plus a collection of Dr Who novelizations (not great literature, but, growing up in a house with no books, media tie-ins were my gateway into spec.fic).

It is, I say again, just the one box. At least until next year.

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