Coffee with Mimi; ‘I am a book hoarder’

Published 9:52 am Friday, May 15, 2020


Community columnist

Some months ago I admitted that I am a book hoarder. I mean real books made of paper and cardboard. I do have one, actually two, of those electronic devices specifically designed to provide readers with a completely portable library. I don’t remember my passwords. Yes, there is a way to remedy that situation, but I choose not to.

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Real books are so satisfying. I can savor the cover design and look at the pictures. I like to look at the pictures first. I always check them out before reading the text. It gives me an idea of who I’m dealing with. I’m not too embarrassed to say I actually didn’t buy a book once, not long ago, because I didn’t like the pictures. I just wasn’t in the mood for all those stuffy, staged, portraits. Time is of the essence, no need to squander it on a bad read.

A real book is always on. No worries about battery life. Sure, a book can’t be left out in the rain, usually. But that isn’t always true. I have revived a book left in the backyard during a summer storm. I have also salvaged a book which took a dive with me into a Japanese garden pond in Kyoto. I was not about to abandon it as there was a long flight home and the story was part of my survival plan. 

I wonder what the flight crew thought when cleaning out that seat pocket. The book was wrinkled, warped and exhibited clear evidence of a serious brush with muck in its recent past.

I enjoy both recommendations of books for future reading and books lent from personal collections. Currently, there are two loaners on the return pile being held hostage by the stay-at-home orders. I also have two I owe to the public library. Thankfully, all parties are patient and overdue fines, I have been assured, are in permanent forbearance.

Several months ago I felt the urge to sort through, organize and weed out my book collection. We just had several rooms painted necessitating the emptying out of all built in bookshelves. While the paint was drying and the surface finish was curing, I took the opportunity to go through the years of accumulation.  

I devised a rough system of classification which should provide some guidance for the sorting. The process was simple: organize the books by categories I care about. It was absolutely imperative that I ruthlessly assess the merit of each individual title. If I couldn’t imagine what possessed me to hold onto the book once it was read, or worse, hadn’t finished, the tome was relegated to the going somewhere else pile.  

Some books are not meant to be discarded, ever. You know, the ones which are too big to stand up on a normal book shelf. I have quite a few of them, mostly from people, times, and places which were significant; a trip to England, a tour of an historic house and garden, and so forth. I figure the kids can get rid of them when they are shoveling out the old homestead, but in the meantime they can be perused on occasion as needed, or on a nostalgic whim.

At the conclusion of this little book purging exercise, there were less than a dozen items not deemed worthy of saving. Nearly every book was arranged on the newly painted shelves, by category. The whole task was quite satisfying and even productive as a couple favorites I thought were long gone were unearthed from among the hodge podge of the old filing system.   

Of course, there were quite a few selections which had yet to be cracked. These books were my insurance against a time when there might be no access to the public library or other sources of reading material, like book stores and friends.

Aren’t I smart! Who knew that time was just around the corner. 

Here I am with an abundance of choices just ready at my fingertips. It’s like a little store right in my house. My conscience encouraged me to be neighborly and polish off the loaners first. They were more than pleasurable reads. Do I pick my friends based on common literary interests?

Usually, I save longer or more weighty numbers for long periods of stress free, self induced inactivity, like the beach. Well, this is an extended period of inactivity, not necessarily without stress though, but I am ready. Without shirking any other duties, with absolutely no inklings of guilt, I have polished off, besides the loaners, five pretty satisfying selections. Moving along.  

Oddly enough, all my reads these past few weeks have been non-fiction. There are plenty of selections on my newly organized shelves which are highly acclaimed works of fiction. They are neatly arranged in an identifiable section with inviting covers and descriptions, generally no pictures, though. For some reason, I have delved into topics of real life and real people, all well researched and well crafted.  

A therapist would likely have a field day with the variety of my choices at this time.