Opinion

How I Learned to Stop Hoarding & Give Away Books

This is a guest post by Jodi Chromey. Jodi is a writer and blogger living in the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis. She writes about books and things that are not books at I Will Dare. Follow her on Twitter: @jodiwilldare

Frank Portman’s second young-adult novel Andromeda Klein falls on the better side of just okay and yet I’ve let it take up residence in that special section of my heart usually reserved for books I adore.

Andromeda Klein is about a library-working, teenage occultist with hearing problems and a best friend who recently died. Andromeda, the main character, is funny and smart and has a reverence for books that is a joy to read. At one point in the novel she talks about how since she has access to so many books through the library, and it has such a good occult collection, she only buys and keeps a few books. These ones that she deigns to own are the very best, most-loved books because she likes the idea of surrounding herself with the things she loves the most, and the energy that brings to her bedroom.

When I read Andromeda’s ideas on book collecting back in 2009, my head jerked up and I stared at my teetery, tottery, over-stuffed six-foot by six-foot bookcase that took up an entire wall of my small living room.

Usually my book collection was only looked at with the moony eyes of a lovestruck teen, but this time my gaze was cold and calculating. Why, I wondered, do I allow American Psycho to sully my collection? I loathed it. And The Secret Life of Bees? A book I disliked so much I could only refer to it by inserting the words “shitty, shitty” into the title (it was a bookclub pick and my editing of the title during the discussion did not go over well with some of the members who departed the club soon after, but not soon enough because they also made me read a book by Nicholas Sparks).

Worse than the books I’d read, disliked, and still kept were the books that I knew I was never going to make the time to read. These were usually books given to me as gifts by well-meaning men I’d been romantically involved with. I have a theory that some men, usually the ones who are not right for you, will try to bend your taste to their will no matter how often you proclaim that fantasy is just not your thing.

Ugh! And how many times have I moved those books either from room to room or house to house? And how many times had I dusted them (confession: not many, I rather read than dust)?

It was time, thanks to Andromeda Klein, to purge the collection of the books I did not love, the ones I would never read.

So yeah, that was back in 2009. It’s 2012 now and I’m still in the midst of purging the collection. It’s hard! There are classics in my collection that I did not enjoy, even after multiple readings that I cannot seem to part with (I’m talking about you On the Road and The Bell Jar). I did ditch all that crappy fantasy I was never going to read. See? That’s progress.

The best thing to come out of the whole episode is that Andromeda Klein made me think about the books after I’d read them. No longer does a book automatically get put on the shelf after I’ve finished it. Only the, well, keepers make it to the shelf. The so-so, the just okay, those get tossed right into the “To Go” box. It’s a box I keep in my dining room filled with books looking for a good home. It’s rare that someone visits and doesn’t leave with at least one book. I’m very popular with my book-loving friends thanks to Andromeda Klein, which earned a spot in the permanent collection even though it only landed on the better side of just okay.


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