Saturday, April 11, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Books, Collecting, and Letting Go

So I love books. I know, big surprise, right? But at the same time, I feel that my love of books can occasionally be…unhealthy. And not just that I'm going to be buried in a horde of books at some point (though I might). I mean that sometimes my obsession with collecting and holding onto books does me no favors when it comes to being a well-rounded reader and person. I will explain:

Take a look at the background of this blog (if you can). That is a section of my bookshelves. Yes, an actual picture. I keep meaning to clean it up, even out the highlights and glare, etc., but for now it's the background and it's a bit telling about my book collecting. Not so much about me, though, or at least not as much as it could be. Or maybe I just don't like all of what it's saying. You might see, for example, a ridiculous amount of Stephen King on my bookshelves. Because I have a ridiculous amount of his books. And I've read…three of them. That's…not good. Why the hell do I have so many of his books if I've only read three of them? What's more, though I kinda-sorta want to read more of his stuff, I'm in no hurry. I might, but not in the next two years or so. Because that's how far I tend to plan a lot of my reading. So again, why all the Stephen King?

Well, the easy answer to that is that I knew who Stephen King was from an early age. And my public library growing up had a Friends of the Library section all the time where I could buy paperbacks for a quarter, hardcovers for fifty cents. And I knew who Stephen King was. So did other people. So I thought it was cool that I had his books. That if people saw them on my shelf they might think I was cool. Smart. Well read. So his books stacked up. And stacked up. And as I moved my books sometimes I would cull some that I hadn't read. And who would get sent back to the used book places? Something by an author I had never heard of that looked interested based on the description or something by Stephen King? Well, you can guess. It meant that I probably got rid of books that I would have really liked to hold onto the image of someone who reads what is popular and cool.

Now, no one really sees my personal library (blog picture aside). It's really not for other people. It's for me. It should be for me. I do believe in an aspirational library. By that I mean a personal library where I haven't read all the books on the shelves. Because there should always be options. But I want those books I aspire to read to be books I want to read. That will get me excited. That speak to something in me. Not that I don't like Stephen King. But I don't need thirty of his books (especially ones in not-good-condition). And so I need to cut back. Which is very difficult. Because getting rid of books seems blasphemous. But I have to come to terms with the me that picked out those books. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be told I was reading the right books. That I was smart.

And now…well, and now I read anything I damned well please. I read paranormal romance and science fiction and fantasy and mysteries and graphic novels and nonfiction and just about everything that strikes me as interesting. I read erotica and I read steampunk and I read and I read and I read. And I put things on the shelf now I would have wanted to hide at the back of my closet or under my bed. But part of being honest and proud of who I am means not setting aside precious shelf space I have because they enhance my image.

So the bookshelves will be reorganized. Which, as I love organizing and reorganizing, is a good thing for me. And I will try to face the book choices of my past and ask myself what I really want to keep and what I'm clinging to for the wrong reasons. Maybe at some point I'll check back in and examine how I did. For now, I'm off to stare at books.

All the best,

Charles Payseur

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