Mar 24, 2011

by English Muse

Mark Medley, the National Post’s books editor, has the most wonderful essay out today
on his life as a book hoarder.

He explains:

“Between my girlfriend and I me, there are probably between 1,000 and 1,250 books in our apartment, a number I consider rather paltry. Ideally, I’d like to double that number once we buy our first home — we currently rent — and I’m no longer faced with the prospect of hauling countless boxes of books between addresses.

“No, the problem, in my opinion, is not the number of books I own, but that I am unable to get rid of any of them. I own some terrible, terrible books — you wouldn’t believe how many crap books get published in this country — but cannot, for the life of me, part with a single one. I am a book hoarder, which, in my line of work, is a troublesome problem to have.”

Medley adds:

“When A&E’s Hoarders premiered a couple of years ago, I watched with morbid fascination; that’s me, I thought, in 25 years (OK, five years).”


This is me — right down to watching the Hoarders episodes on A&E! I have a friend who is merciless about getting rid of her old books (she leaves boxes of them on the doorsteps of second-hand stores late at night.) She says I should be less sentimental, but somehow I just can’t…

What about you?

(Photo by Magic Magic Magic.)


This entry was posted on Thursday, March 24th, 2011 at 2:38 am. It is filed under Books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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26 Responses to “A book hoarder’s call for help…”

  1. Larissa says:

    If you love something set it free!

  2. debbie bailey says:

    I think I was finally able to give away my first book in my forties. It was a rite of passage. Now if I finish a book and it was anything less than wonderful, I donate it to our library for their annual sale. You could look at it this way: giving books away makes room for more new ones. Maybe that'll motivate you! Maybe not. Do what makes you happy.

  3. Kelly Kilmer says:

    My husband, son and I live in a one bedroom apartment. We have 13 bookcases that line the walls. I have no qualms about getting rid of books that I don't like or have no attachment to. Your library should be one you treasure and cherish, not a library of useless, unloved tomes. I did get a great laugh at his comment of 1000-1,250 books. Hahahaha. That's nothing.

  4. Jen says:

    I'm the exact same way! My small condo is FILLED with books on three bookcases and even more in boxes that are stacked in my bedroom. It's terrible, but I just can't let them go.

  5. Chloé Jane says:

    Oh no… Books are wonderful!
    Keep them and pass them onto your children. AND it's much nicer to collect a library piece by piece!

  6. Swiss says:

    I have no problem getting rid of a mmmeh book, but I usually read library books and then buy the books that I really like so the collection is large but well loved.

  7. curious constellation says:

    I'm only 17 & I've already started hoarding books. I almost cannot walk into a book store without buying something new.

  8. Kaisha says:

    I think I could call myself a hoarder as well. My bookshelf is full (but strategically placed in genre of course) and I have boxes upon boxes under my bed and in the spare room. I also dread changing addresses. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Charm says:

    When I moved from Sydney to Melbourne I took a few boxes of books with me. This was only a small portion of my collection. I was able to give away a few boxes but the rest (I'd say close to 500 books) were left under the stairs of the apartment block I was leaving. I now have a modest collection of around 250 books but with the settlement for my newly purchased house going through today I can see it growing again quite soon 🙂

  10. Alexandra Steinmetz - Champagne and Chiffon says:

    I have no problem getting rid of books. The ones I don't want to hold onto always get passed along to a friend that may enjoy them.

  11. SAMANTHA says:

    i am glad to read this and know i am not alone. i don't really hoard books i don't like, but all of the ones i love, i would never get rid of ever! this is why i refuse to get a kindle- i love the touch, feel and smell of real books.

    my fiance said we should get a bigger apartment, not for more room to start a family, but for more room for more books. he's a keeper!


  12. Holly Marie says:

    My boyfriend is like this! He insists on keeping even old textbooks from his undergrad. It makes me a little crazy, as I'm at the opposite obsessive end of the spectrum, compulsively tossing/ donating things I don't love.

  13. Heather says:

    I've gotten better about donating books, but only if it's something I didn't enjoy and won't read again, otherwise I am currently out of bookshelf space… again. 🙂

  14. Katie says:

    My husband and I face this issue all the time – we both love books and he especially wants to own them if he's read them and keep them forever. We have NINE boxes of books stuffed into closets plus books on shelves all over the place in our apartment…but that's after we've purged because we knew we couldn't afford to move them (and we move often being students) all the time.

    Sigh. But it has cured me of holding onto books I have no desire to go back too – most of the time.

  15. DENISE. says:

    My book club teases me about this ALL the time! I just can't part with any book that comes into my life. They are like photographs — I love to see them in my home, and when I walk by them, I have the memories of not only the characters & the stories, but what my life was like when I read that book. Sign me up for the Hoarding club!

  16. Morgan says:

    I have a really hard time parting with books too, especially series and things I read as a child. The only way I get rid of them is giving them to my younger sister so she can enjoy them and hang on to them for me should I ever feel like reading them again. Other than that, I have a really difficult time parting with even the crapiest of books.

  17. Molly McGonigle says:

    I frequently think I could end up a books hoarder. My apartment is so tiny and I've run out of shelf space. Now I have piles scattered around my place. I should get rid of some, but I just have a hard time with it.

  18. Diana says:

    My husband and I are both librarians, so of course, we had more books than clothing or any other items combined when we moved in. Our only solution? To keep our first editions and treasured books and go digital. It was heartbreaking at first, but overall, it allowed us to appreciate our tangible reading. Plus, it was such a harsh loss for us emotionally, we realized we grew stronger in our marriage because of it. Crazy!

  19. madeleine says:

    I doubt you can be as bad as a hoarder!!! For some reason, I think it's so cute and borderline romantic that your friend leaves boxes of books on doorsteps of second hand stores! So fabulous!

    Stay classy,

  20. The Dandelion Chronicles says:

    Not books. Anything but books. Only if I have a spare copy and I choose the one which has the prettiest cover/illustration/not damaged spine/ no coffee spills/with notes/name tags/dedications etc. Basically, I can't get rid of a book either!

    (And I have seen the show.. It airs here in Denmark too!)

  21. Katie Bee says:

    I once sold books to a used bookstore.
    They gave me ten dollars for a stack of twenty-five paperbacks (which, in hindsight, was probably not much less than they sold them for). I cried and decided I would never, ever sell books again. Giving? yes. But I always want them back, and only ever swap or sell books I have two of (which actually happens a lot, because I'll buy old copies with pretty covers).

    My parents are graciously housing my hundreds of books, but will probably make me take them all when I have my own house. Oh boy.

  22. Jo says:

    I can't, either! They're like old friends I take comfort in having around. And, what if I want to revisit them?
    I have a friend who wants to coordinate a book swap. The thought makes me cringe!

  23. Tracey says:

    I used to be terrible when it comes to hoarding books, but then a few years ago something clicked … I realised that it was pretty infrequently that I'd actually reach for a book I'd already read, so it was far better to let them free into the world for someone else to appreciate.

    I'm still culling my book collection, but I think it's a case of once you start, the easier it becomes.

  24. Mary says:

    Great post. I adore books, and I love walking into homes filled with them. Bookcases are an essential part of home decor, in my opinion. I think it contributes to an environment with a love of reading and learning. That said, I have no problem getting rid of books I didn't love. I want to keep my shelves stocked with the books I'd happily recommend to others and/or reread myself.

  25. Paisley says:

    Zillions of books in this house. Mostly mine as my husband is only interested in these new age health books. Ok, I have one of these minds that speaks quicker than I can think. Seems impossible but it is hellish when I am trying to take in a book and get something out of it. OCD or ADHD I’ve self diagnosed. Anyway, I am being brutal and throwing many books to the library bin. Fortunately they are grateful unlike in Louisiana after I hawled many boxes for them just to tell me they don’t take them except on Tuesday and only for the fair. The MS library actually covers them and gets a lot of use from them in the actual lending library. So that helps with my seperation anxiety. You know, I think every time I make it through a book it simply feels like a trophy’Hey I read it and the finished book on the shelf is my reward” I am now 55 so I have to be more ruthless I reckon. What’s so bothorsome is I will totally empty out a garden room and get it all set to be beautiful with glass table and lots of plants and flora but if I turn my back my hubby has piled it high with all kinds of garge tools,paint, oh the list goes on. I don’t really have a high esteem and his behaviour just makes me feel like a good cry and then I just give up.
    Okay! So today while he was out I have taken a huge pile down to the library and I plan to do it every day untill it’s almost minimal here. Clothes as well. We’ll never fit back in to the size 2/4 again. Let it go.
    What scared me is I went to a website and it says if you throw everything out, you’re having a nervous break down. I feel having all of this clutter is making the breakdown in my mind.

    So what do you all think? Am I on the right direction? I don’t touch ANY of his things ever but I do really feel my mind clearing when I get rid of all the stuff, books included.I’ve saved the lit books from Oxford as I guess it’s a boost to my shattered ego that at least I did that. He says awful things to me….lets throw out your piano. The one thing of value to me that I still use.Do yu know one day he came home from work and I was playing Enya’s music very quietly and he told me I was disturbing the neighbors. What could be the jealousy with that. I’m lost. In fact I will only play when he isn’t home as his comments are so hurtful. I’ve gone from parents friends asking me to play to this. I am in a very miserable place at the moment. We are living in the deep south of Mississippi in I guess an upscale neighborhood but I share no tastes with the local. Sorry but I’d be an awful hunter or fisherman and the casino’s?? Don’t think they’d be interested.

    Ok I’ll stop here with one more question. SHOULD I JUST DONATE THE BOOKS I HAVENT LOOKED AT IN AT LEAST 6 MONTHS. I’m being smuthered. It’s my fault as he doesn’t spend his $$ on books by habit.
    I’ll let you know I’m doing. He says we’re moving to San Diego CA. And no way all of this is coming. No worries though, I have been hearing we are moving for years. Some people REFUSE change. Sad they miss out on a good education by just exploring what other places have to off.

    Thanks heaps for reading my ramble. I am isolated and just need to share.

    Hope this is still a working page and that I will be welcome to join all of you. Have loved reading your stories.

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