Thursday, October 20, 2011

When love and abuse go hand in hand

I would honestly rather stick a hot fork in my eye and give it a good twist than deep-clean my home.

But with the likelihood looming that I'll need to sell the house in the very near future, I've been forced to put down the fork, pick up a wine glass, and get to work.

Tuesday night's task involved organizing bookshelves. I was a lit major in college and a voracious reader since age seven, so you might imagine this was a rather daunting task. I kicked off my evening of fun by hauling six huge boxes of books to Goodwill. Then I got to work sorting, organizing, and re-shelving.

Handling every book one by one gave me the rare opportunity to see which books are in pristine condition and which ones look like I put them in the blender:
Kurt Vonnegut's Player Piano literally crumbled when I picked it up. No surprise there, since it was one of my favorite books all through high school and college. I've read this book hundreds of times, and my love for it shows in the tattered cover and torn pages. I had to handle it very, very gently as I placed it back on the shelf and picked up the little scraps of disintegrated tape that fell off the spine.

These two go even further back in my childhood:
I think I've been lugging around this copy of Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret since 1983 (third grade, for those of you keeping track at home). I must have acquired Katherine Paterson's Jacob Have I Loved a year or two later. I probably read each of them at least three dozen times before I sprouted boobs, but they're still in relatively good shape. The books, not the boobs. Well, the boobs are fine, too.

Then there are the treasures I picked up a little later in life:

I was a lit major in college. That means I spent each day straining beneath the weight of several dozen huge, heavy books as I walked to class. Imagine my delight when this one – which weighed approximately 893 pounds – finally broke in half. Genius! I no longer had to drag the entire book everywhere. I could just pack the chunk we were studying at the time. Incidentally, this text was the inspiration for several of the quotes spoken by Malcolm the pirate/literary theologian in Making Waves.

Then you have books that not only show wear, but evidence of where they've been:

Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Dreams has been one of my all-time favorite books since college. As you can see from the note on the cover, I loan it out from time to time. It always comes back to me, often with the friend's gushing praise and a vow to go out and buy more of Kingsolver's books. A wise idea, I must say.

Of course, if you want to see my true passion in reading material, you need to fix your eyes on the middle shelves of the bookcase:

That's a small portion of my romantic comedy stash, and it's heavy on Jennifer Crusie, Kristan Higgins, Victoria Dahl, Lani Diane Rich, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. You'll notice many of the books are in surprisingly good shape. That's not because I haven't read them much. On the contrary, I've developed the habit of giving these books to friends and then buying new copies for myself. Inevitably, I reread my new copy once or twice before passing it along to yet another friend (thereby creating a new romantic comedy fan-girl and a need for me to go out and buy another new copy for myself).

So what's on your bookshelf? What shows signs of love and abuse, and what are you ashamed to admit you've handled only when shoving it on the shelf to collect dust? Please share!

And please join me in lifting a glass to celebrate the beauty of my well-organized bookshelves!

Now who wants to help organize the garage?


Sarah W said...

Good mercy, what isn't on my shelves?

I'm a librarian, so you'd think things would be more organized over here, but they ain't.

My college souvenir doorstops are on the bottom shelves -- a metric ton of Norton's American and English Lit books. They keep the bookcases stable.

The Terry Pratchett are all in the same bookcase, and the Anne Lamott, and there's one shelf of Eliosa James, Fenske, and Crusie -- except for Agnes and the Hitman, which lives in the kitchen because my kids trashed the book cover and my MIL keeps mistaking it for a cookbook.

The rest is mass (and I do mean mass) chaos.

But my current reading pile can be found on the toilet tank in my bathroom. . .

Matthew MacNish said...

Alas, my young life was so turbulent, I was unable to hold on to anything I collected. If only I still had every book I ever bought.

Anne Gallagher said...

I feel your pain. I did a Goodwill run not too long ago with all my books I didn't want or need, but I'm still left with a wall of shelves, books stacked three deep. I can't seem to part with them, even the ones with the raggedy pages and torn covers.

I wish I still had my copy of Are You There God, It's Me Margaret. Miss that book.

Teri Anne Stanley said...

I read Charlotte's Web so many times that the cover shredded, so I made a book cover with a label from an economy-sized can of baked beans. It lives next to my own copy of "Are You There God". And "Jonathan Livingston Seagull", which I still don't entirely get, but I keep it anyway.

C D Meetens said...

I've been forced (through lack of space in my tiny flat) to put a lot of books in boxes in my parents' attic. I'm regretting it now, as I'd like a particular book - a hardback copy of "A Dream of Sadler's Wells" by Lorna Hill, that used to be my mum's.

A book I have on my own bookcase, that I treasure, is "The Secret Garden" - again hardback with beautiful illustrated plates. It was a birthday present when I was 7, and though I've read it alot, it's still in good condition, as I was so careful with it (afraid of damaging it, I think).

Patty Blount said...

Oh, my.... where to start?

I am all over the map. I am a rabid Jeff Somers fan and have read those books each about 3 times over now. You'll find them all over my house - one on top of The Road, The Shack, or Twilight.

Funny story - I closed The Terminal State and put it on my bedside table, on top of Twilight. It immediately reopened to my last page. That really annoys me. I don't like cracked spines, so I shut it again. It wasn't until I moved Twilight that it stayed closed. Coincidence? I think not.

Robin Becker's BRAINS sits right next to my copy of Diane Mott Davidson's Dying for Chocolate. Laurel K. Hamilton's Swallowing Darkness is beside Bill Cameron's Day One.

There is no rhyme or strategy behind my organization, but there is a reason. In a word - mood. I can switch from erotica to YA to dystopia - often in a single weekend, when I will read 4 or 5 books at once.

One of my fondest dreams is to someday build a library with shelves stretching from floor to ceiling with a ladder on wheels to reach all my treasures.

Until then, my books are where ever I am.

Harley May said...

Katherine Patterson's JACOB HAVE I LOVED is one of my favorite books and that looks like a beautiful edition. Good work and organization, love.

julie fedderson said...

Those are some well loved books! I can never throw any away, so I'm impressed that you are able to do such a great job organizing and let go.

JJ said...

Friends are on my shelves. Books I've edited, books from writers I've come to know. Signed copies, some that don't contain scenes that I remember. Treasures all, and I wouldn't part with any of them. Conversely, when I travel and enter a bookstore, I see friends' books waving from every shelf. It's like having a warm, traveling family.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

My bookshelf is a mixed bag. Some of it is pristine because I moved awhile back and had to leave most of my books at my parents' house, but was able to use graduation money to restock my library. :) Of course, a lot of these books are still tattered because I got them from used bookstores (aka 'heaven').
Oh, and there's that copy of Rebecca that I quite literally stole from my English class in high school and couldn't bear to leave behind... :)

Anonymous said...

Kind of like everyone here, books are my guilty pleasure, along with a few others.... But I have boxes of books stashed through out my house. I have two TBR boxes, two romance keepers and at lest one misc. It saves on book shelves space but keeps the closets full.

I make it a habit that if I read a book I don't want to keep, it doesn't happen often, I put it in a bag in my den and when the bag is full I take it to my local libaray. They have massive book sales twice a year, where I go and buy more books. It's called recycling. Enjoy always, T

Ruth Madison said...

There are only a handful of books that always live with me (the rest from my childhood are in a box in my parents' attic).

Treasure Island
The Phantom Tollbooth
The Screwtape Letters

Laina said...

We moved from Ontario to Saskatchewan when I was 11(halfway across Canada if you're not so great on Canadian geography) so I didn't bring that many with me. I have two that I would never get rid of.

One is an old, old copy of a book called Buttermilk (picture book about a rabbit) that my grandmother gave me before we moved from Saskatchewan to Ontario when I was 2. I never saw her again after that, so anything from her is treasured to me. It was a library copy that either probably got taken out of the system (she was a librarian), not to mention how many times I made my mom read it to me over the years, so it's pretty delicate.

The second one is called The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts. They re-released it recently, but I have an old copy with a slightly freaky cover. It's held together by a LOT of tape and nearly impossible to read, but I've had it for years and I'm reasonably certain it's one of the books that's why I write paranormal and fantasy books.

And that was a fun trip down memory lane!! XD

Anonymous said...

David Baldacci's THE WINNER - page 41-87 fell completely out of the book... evidence of beach abuse. I love that book.

I don't keep a huge book shelf... I keep a small amount of books and always donate during book drives and gift good-reads to friends. Alas, I think it's because I spent much of my life as a nomad and have no desire to heave 400 lbs of books around.

And your garage, sorry, I've reorganized mine a dozen times in the last 6 years just to have my spouse destroy it days after so, I now have a garage phobia!

Mary said...

Love it. Yep. That's what a well-loved book SHOULD look like -- thumbed through, taped up, dog-eared, it's cover and pages soft from fingers sliding up, down and across them.

Some of my Nancy Drew collection looks like that (the Clue of the Whistling Bagpipe, for example, because I was just starting my "career" as a piper and Nancy was cool like that, too.). Oh, and so do many of my humorous romance and paranormal novels. There's nothing like visiting some old friends!


Sarah W, I hear you on the college souvenirs. I ended up parting with a number of them on this round, even though they’ve been following me around for more than 15 years now.

Matthew, I shudder to think of hanging on to every book I’ve ever bought. Actually, I shudder to think of how much money I’ve spent (though it was very well spent!)

Anne, I’m thinking I need to read Margaret again soon. It’s been YEARS!

Teri Anne, I still don’t think I could read Charlotte’s Web without bawling. Those animal stories get me every time.

CD Meetens, oooh, I loved The Secret Garden in middle school. I remember doing a book report on it.

Patty, oooh, put me on top of someone good. Wait, what?

Harley May, I remember hating the title when I was 10 or 11 because it sounded like a cheesy romance novel. Funny the way things turn out!

Julie, I let go of a lot of stuff on this round that I’ve been dragging around for decades. Tough to do, but it was time.

JJ, I have a special spot on my bookshelf for work by critique partners and good friends!

Bethany, er, it’s possible there’s one or two stolen editions on my bookshelf. Shh!

Tricia, I had one huge box stashed in a closet that I hadn’t looked in for six years. I kept a few of them, but many went to Goodwill.

Ruth, funny, Catch-22 is one of those books I desperately wanted to love, but could never get into no matter how hard I tried.

Laina, oddly enough, I’ve never heard of any of those books. Will have to remedy that!

Kmullican, I’m kind of afraid I’ve lost a few pages from Player Piano. I’m afraid to check!

Mary, I really wish I still had all my old Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden books. Loved those!

Thanks for reading, guys!

Kimberly @ Turning the Pages said...

I have the same copy of Are you there God? It's me, Margaret! It used to belong to my older sister when she was in the third grade. She's 36 now and I'm 21 so the fact that my copy still hasn't disintegrated is a miracle in and of itself.