Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Book, books, books

As I said in the last post, we are trying to de-clutter our life, dumping all that stuff we are never going to use again, just like those programmes you see on TV.
There is an awful agony about throwing away books. In theory, our rule is that if we think we are never going to read the book again then Oxfam is a better place for it; but how does one know?
What should we do with the books that represent the passage of time, my old anatomy book for example? When I went to medical school, I had something to prove. I'd slid through school doing just enough and happy to use a variety of excuses for not doing better. We lived miles away from school and I spent about four hours each day travelling, a good enough excuse for skimping on Latin homework. At medical school, the first thing we did was anatomy, so I set out to be good at it, trying to find out how far I could push it. I bought the best books at the beginning of term; I had to manage on whatever money was left. I've kept those books for almost 50 years, simply because there is so much personal discovery somewhere between those pages, but why keep them? I'm the only person who knows it's there and I never open the book. Who knows what Oxfam will make of it?
Other books have different issues; this week's task is to try to get to the point where all the books are in the library and only the library, which means a lot have to go. Everything on photography goes, mostly because chemical developing and darkroom techniques are no longer relevant.
Winemaking is easier to look up on the web, so there goes another batch, along with a bunch of other how-to-do-it books.
The tough decisions come down to novels I should have read, biographies I have a soft spot for, and, for example, the collected works of Dorothy Parker. Before it goes on the pile, I can't resist reading a few pages and then it's back on the shelf. The trouble is I may not read it again until the next time we decide to have a clear out.
What about signed copies, do we apply the same rules? Signed books have more memories attached but I suppose they might also fetch more money at Oxfam, or where ever they end up; though the actual content is no different, apart from what the author wrote that evening.
Oddly, I have a book where the author wrote something that would help with the current exercise, but I propose to ignore their advice. A few years back I managed to attend book launches by Niel Gaiman and Terry Pratchett in successive months. I bought another copy of Good Omens and got it signed by both of them. Terry wrote 'burn this book'  I think not, that one stays on the shelf.

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