Here we are, another calendrical switchover and a new year. This past year was a big year for me, mainly due to personal reasons, but also in my world as a reader.
Believe it or not, I actually cleared out and sorted my library for the first time in years. Perhaps even more than a decade, I would wager. This was necessitated by needing to move the “library” to a new floor, and realising that the library would no longer have its own contained area–not to mention that a substantial portion of the books in it were not books I wanted to read again. Sure, they were books that had neat covers, or books that I might want to cite someday as an example of something–some I had even purchased for that exact purpose. But as the years have gone on, and I hadn’t made much headway in that realm, I figured it was time to move on.
It’s difficult to give up some books, and it’s amazing how emotional ties form to bundles of inked-up paper held together with glue. I had to decide whether I wanted to keep one of the books from my teenage years that helped me get through, by an author that has long since disappeared, even though it was poorly written and unlikely to give anyone else any joy. I still remember the first few “adult” books I read, the science fiction and fantasy novels my dad passed on to me when he realised I was running through children’s books a little too quickly and wanted more–especially more dragons.
The world of speculative fiction is much broader than it was back then, probably about fifteen years ago. I remember walking in to bookstores, being wowed by so many paperback books with amazing covers, and then trying to decide which volume to buy after saving up money for months and months. At that time, libraries only carried popular books in the science fiction and fantasy section, so anything that didn’t sell sell sell (like most mid-list SF books) quickly disappeared. I missed reading some popular authors in my quest to find gems, which I’m happy to say that sometimes I did. In retrospect, the stores were also quite small; what seemed like an overwhelming abundance on 4-6 shelves in one case (two if it was a big store!) now seems like a dearth in comparison to the big box booksellers who have massive shelving units floor to ceiling that would practically outline a large room.
Because of those limitations and the fact that young people don’t really have steady income (I never had an allowance with any regularity), books were like gold to me. Probably even more valuable than gold to be honest. So some of those books that I purchased from way back then, back when paperbacks were less than half the price they are now, while not books I want to reread, they are books that I have trouble parting with. And in fact, most of my books I still treat that way no matter how much I may have disliked them in the past. A book is a book.
Or at least it was. Who knows? Perhaps I can make the switch to e-readers in the next few years. I would miss the rasp of paper, the scent of a new book, and the hefty feeling in my hands of a comforting tome. But I think I would also enjoy not having to lug around boxes upon boxes of books in physical form when it comes down to it. Not yet, but some day. Some day when e-readers are more comfortable to use and to hold, and hopefully, become more affordable.
Now I have the added concern of whether or not my soon-to-be child would want to read any of these books. What if I give away or sell something that he’d love? Of course, this begs the question of whether any child of mine would actually like SF… Though given that my husband already read a full Robert J. Sawyer novel to the baby (Calculating God–review to come soon since I got to listen in), he’s certainly got a decent head start.
In the meantime, I am proud to say that I managed to start severing at least some of those emotional ties so that I have enough room to add some new ones, if I want to. That is, I emptied the library of at least 10 boxes worth of books. And it means I can at least look around for some new books to put in those shelves… for a little while, at least.