The birth of our second daughter a few months ago has forced my wife and I to “reorganize” the house to make more room – and that means parting ways with lots of miscellaneous stuff. You know, those boxes of old possessions that you have squirreled away in closets or in the attic that you haven’t even thought of in years… Well, over the weekend I unearthed a sizable crate of my parents’ decades-old albums (don’t ask me how they wound up in my basement) and decided to bring them to a local used bookstore that also buys and sells old records. As the bookstore owner was going through my old-time vinyl stash – The Best of Mario Lanza, Christmas with Andy Williams and the Williams Brothers, Here’s Steve Lawrence, Robert Goulet on Broadway, etc. – he laughed and said, “Wow. Another Barry Manilow. When civilization ends and nothing else is left, there will still be Barry Manilow albums out there.” And then he added this: “It’s interesting to see what people bring in – it’s the albums and books they don’t want. All of the really good stuff is back home on their shelves.”

After selling him a measly five albums at 75 cents apiece – that’s $3.75, folks! – I lugged the still sizable stash back to my truck thinking about what he had said. The good stuff is still on their shelves. Upon returning home, I went in search of some long neglected literary treasures – not necessarily classics or critically acclaimed bestsellers, but books that I’ve read decades ago that, although I have never read them again, I still possess and deeply cherish.

As a kid, I was a voracious reader and around the time I was in fourth or fifth grade, I conned my parents into letting me join some mail-order science fiction book club where I could get up to three “book club editions” of genre standards per month on the cheap. And after more than 30 years, I still have some of those books! Talk about being influential, these books unarguably altered my life (I grew up to become a science /fantasy book reviewer) – Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End and Rendezvous with Rama, Isaac Asimov’s The Far Ends of Time and Earth, and John Varley’s Titan, to name just a few…

…and during my search for “the good stuff,” I also uncovered some interesting not-so-classic books that, for whatever reasons, have still remained on my shelves after decades of bimonthly purges. Here are two that stood out:

Oron by David C. Smith (1978)
I bought this paperback for $1.95 and it’s straightforward adventure fantasy in the vein of Robert E. Howard’s Conan. Featuring a young broadsword-wielding warrior named Oron, this was just heavenly literary escapism for me as a kid. I think another reason I loved this book so much was that I was pleasantly surprised by several full-page illustrations inside. Here’s a taste: “Amrik, the Bull Man, his black beard spattered crimson, looked like a demon from hell as he wildly rode in full pursuit of his enemy…”

 

The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad (1972)
This paperback was also $1.95 and asks the disturbing question: “What If Hitler Wrote Science Fiction?” An alternate history of sorts, this novel is actually a story within a story about Adolf Hitler as he immigrates to the States in 1919 and becomes a pulp SF illustrator and writer. After his death years later, a manuscript is found (Lord of the Swastika) and published to critical acclaim. I think the reason this read was so memorable for me was because it was one of my first real forays into post-apocalyptic fiction – Hitler’s novel takes place after a nuclear war turns much of humanity into nightmarish mutants – but the thing that really resonated with me was the thought-provoking themes it explored: prejudice, intolerance, the insanity of war, etc.

 

So my experience with Mario Lanza and Barry Manilow – and later looking through my bookshelves for "the good stuff" – has compelled me to look at my belongings in a different light. I have literally thousands of books in my house, bookshelves in every room (except the bathroom) and I know that I’ll never have the time to re-read all of these books again. So why have I saved all of these books? Why can’t I just let go?

 

After some quiet contemplation (next to a huge bookshelf filled with science fiction and fantasy books), here’s what I’ve concluded – my standards for keeping a book are relatively simple: it's all about preserving the memory. For example, the experience of reading Oron when I was 10 or 11 years old – immersing myself in the storyline, smelling the pulpy pages, taking in the cover art and interior illustrations, was obviously a memorable event in my life. Holding onto the book, for me, is like keeping a photograph from an enjoyable vacation. So my bookshelves are like massive photo albums, I guess…

Do I have deep-rooted psychological problems with the gathering and storing of my worldly possessions? Am I a dreaded book hoarder? Are there others just like me out there? Until I seek out therapy, I won’t have any definitive answers but I do know this – if anyone wants any Barry Manilow records, let me know…

Message Edited by paulgoatallen on 07-27-2009 08:48 AM
Comments
by Moderator dhaupt on ‎07-27-2009 09:38 AM

Well Paul I love Barry Manilow, in fact he's the only artist I've ever seen live, but you can keep the vinyls. I have a really hard time getting rid of books, they stand three deep in some places on my bookshelves, in my basement, in my closets on the floor of my reading room etc. I don't know why I can't give them away and I don't re-read them either but giving away a book is as painful to me as, well I don't know, but it's painful.

I remember that I lent someone an ARC of mine once and now I can't locate it and I've asked every one that I lend books to, to no avail. And It hurts every time I think about it.

I love the feel of the book in my hand, I love the smell of a new book and I even kept The Road. ;-)

Deb 

by Emigail on ‎07-27-2009 11:28 AM

I don't know about the Barry Manilow records, don't have a player for them even if I wanted to take them off your hands, but I do know you aren't the only book hoarder out there.  I'm one myself.  If we hadn't had a housefire about three years ago, my room would be overrun with novels and reference books and any other reading material I find handy.  I used to and still find reasons to keep multiple copies of books.  One of my most used has actually been, "I got this book less than a year ago from [insert friend or family member's name here.]  If I get rid of this to soon it might hurt their feelings."  Then I go on and read again.  Of course I've read several books in my personal library and our public library, and I submerge into the books

 There are a few books that I don't like very much.  Those are either a part of a series that I absolutely adore or I just can't part with the book.  For the parting with a book seems to equate with the parting of a very iportant part of my soul: the part that uses the imagination to keep me from becoming bored.

by on ‎07-27-2009 11:53 AM

Paul,

 

You can add me to your list of book hoarders.  I have about 10 authors that I have everyone of their books.  For example I have all of Anne McCaffrey's, Mercedes Lackey, Piers Anthony, Andre Norton, Jo Clayton, Sharon Lee And Steve Miller, David Eddings, Stephen Brust, David Weber, Elizabeth Moon.  Some of them are over 30 years old but at least once a year I reread them just for the pure enjoyment.  I proably would have a lot more if I hadn't moved several times in the last ten years.  I have a very hard time getting rid of any books I get.

 

Toni

by on ‎07-27-2009 11:56 AM

No thanks on the Barry Manilow.

But DO NOT get rid of those books, especially the science fiction ones. I have moved a couple times and I do regret some of those old ones that hold the memories of reading that book for the first time. I will admit that some I was glad to get rid of and move in some better titles. But since you brought up the birth of your second daughter, save those books. When my son was in the Marine Corp I sent him a few special science fiction books of mine, the old paperbacks. Paperbacks were easy to carry and move around with him. My son was worried about ruining mom's favorite old books. But it was more important to me that he read these books, who cared what condition they came back in. It meant more to me to hear what my son thought of those books his mom hung onto.

by on ‎07-27-2009 01:39 PM

Well Paul, I don't think you are alone in the massive books.  Now that I have really started to pick up in my reading I had to go get bookshelves to put up.  I may not read these books again, but I like having them and looking at them to remember what the book was about.  And maybe someday someone will ask me about the book then I can just go pull it off the shelf.

 

My current problem is my addiction to buy the books.  I go to the book stores and spend money on books and have a separate shelf for my to be read books. (Which one shelf is not enough so they are now everywhere else also.)  I have these books so when I decide to read for a few days on something different I have them.  (Or when the world comes to an end I have books to read. LOL.)

by Sensitivemuse on ‎07-27-2009 03:32 PM

I am a total book hoarder and there's so many I haven't read, and so many I've read and wanted to keep. Yes, it's the memories..but I think it's also re-read value. I have all my Dragonlance novels and will reread The Chronicles at some point again.

 

Books that I will read only once I do give away. I seriously need space for all my other books and the potential ones I will be buying every week :smileyvery-happy:

by on ‎07-28-2009 03:47 AM

Totally guilty hoarder.

Just got through moving the collection recently. Took a week for the DVDs, lazer discs (yes we still have those), and books alone.

 

But dude list your unwanted albums on Ebay.  A fetish will pay up to 50 bucks for an odd one and outrageous prices for their personal favs. Their popularity is for some bizare reason is becomming trendy.

by thuff on ‎08-03-2009 09:16 PM

My weakness is craft and gardening books. Thank god I work in a large public library, or my collecting would grow to embaressing porportions. When I see a craft book that is has a different viewpoint that what I already have, I can't seem to help myself. The good news is that in Dallas we are lucky enough to be home to the Half-Priced Books chain. I simply will not live long enough to do all of the crafting in my personal library.

 

I've often told my husband that if I ever stop working in a library we are going to be in big trouble feeding my book habit.

by FindingLydia on ‎08-20-2009 06:23 PM
I think "Hording" is my middle name! I was looking at a home video from 6 years ago and thougt wow, I had a lot of space back then. My weakness is childrens books. My excuse - I'm a teacher :smileyhappy: Now I have to figure out what else I can purge or as my dad used to say, I need a pole barn out back!!! I think I need a pole barn!
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