Tuesday, 25 March 2014

So many books, so little time

What I am doing (apart from typing this) is sorting through some of my books. A friend and I were discussing Dava Sobel's book Longitude, and I thought I had a copy. But where is it?  I cannot find it. Did I only imagine I had it? Is it a false memory? Did I have it and give it away? Am I an ineffective searcher? Am I being defeated through having too many books?

Perhaps.

Of course, as I search, I find books I have not looked at for quite some time.

Oner of these is A Working Musician's Joke Book. I have just been glancing through it, but have not got very far. So far it is not all that funny. However, here is one joke (early on the book) that I quite like.

The audience at a piano recital were appalled when a telephone rang just off stage. Without missing a beat, the soloist glanced in the direction of the stage manager and said, " If that's my agent, tell him I'm working."

On re-reading this, it does not seem all that funny, so that is one more book for the junk pile. It is about time I rang up the people who collect books and then sell them to raise money for their classical music radio station. However I just had another peek at the joke book. It gets unfunnier, and nastier, at every glance. I think it can go into the bin. Whew!

There are problems with having too many books, and a curious mind. Life is not long enough to read all the books. and when you cannot find a particular book, lots of time gets wasted. Well, perhaps not wasted, exactly. You just don't finish whatever it was you were planning to do. You find lots of interesting books, so it is absolutely necessary to browse through them.

In a perfect world, your bookshelves would enable you to arrange them logically so that you knew where all the books were, instead of having to rifle through them for considerable periods, and thus be subject to endless enticing and interesting distractions. But as books come in all manner of sizes and shapes, it is a constant battle to put like with like. It is necessary to arrange lots of books by size, and hope that you can find the one you want WHEN you want it, instead of just happening upon it. Fiction is relatively easy, as you can arrange by author, and biography is not too bad, but sizes vary rather more. Then there are travel books, and books about music, and they should really stay together. The history books also need to live near each other, and reference books of all kinds need togetherness too.  I suppose at this point I am sounding rather like a librarian, which is only natural.

There is not enough time to get everything sorted out and organised, as there are too many other things to do - desirable as well as necessary things. In an ideal world I would just get a whole lot more bookshelves. I have friends who moved house, downsized their book collections, but still needed compactus storage.

Another friend reads a lot, but never keeps a single book. I could no more do that than fly.

Enough. Back to the search for Dava Sobel.

2 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

Not keep a single book? Incomprehensible - or their memory is much, much better than mine.
And our bookcases here groan. Some are ordered, too many are not.
The only Dava Sobel I have read is Galileo's Daughter - interesting but not great.

Isabelle said...

I keep things in vague categories but yes. It's not totally in control and I have far more books than I will ever manage to reread unless I never read any new ones. But I love them.