Anyone a book collector? I'm more of an accumulator, and much to the dismay of my wife I've accumulated thousands (and thousands) of books. (Let's not even speak of the two air-conditioned storage rooms that I have to rent.)

It all started when I was reading a novel by John D. MacDonald forty or so years ago and realized that it was a paperback original. "Maybe people are throwing these things away," I thought. "But I won't."

Within my accumulation are some small collections, I suppose, if you want to look at it that way. I probably have one of the best collections of Harry Whittington's paperback novels around, and if you include the 8 signed hardcovers, it's a collection that some people might envy. A very few, granted, but some. There's also a pretty good Jim Thompson collection, and of course there are those John D. MacDonald books, including both editions of WEEP FOR ME.

The problem becomes one of "What will happen to all these books after I'm gone?" A friend of mine, George Kelley, solved that problem by donating his books to SUNY at Buffalo, where the library established The Kelley Collection. But George was lucky. Not many libraries are going to treat paperbacks with the care and respect that SUNY does. And besides, I can't bear to part with the books. They'll probably be right here after I've shuffled off this mortal coil. I'm afraid that my kids will have a big yard sale, with my signed Whittington hardbacks going for 10 cents each. I don't suppose it will bother me.

For the moment, I love sitting here in my little office room, surrounded by thousands (and thousands) of paperbacks. I feel like Scrooge McDuck in the money bin. I'd like to burrow through them like a gopher. I'd like to toss them in the air and let them hit me on the head. Not that hardbacks, though.

Anybody else as crazy as me? If you'd like to read about others who are, check out Nicolas Basbanes' A GENTLE MADNESS. It's a wonderful book.

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I'm not sure, but perhaps a good 12-step program might help. I've often thought there should be one for people with a book habit.
Right. You need something right next door.
I have cleared out all of my books as often as I have dropped twenty five pounds. Just like the pounds the books come back. Growing up, there were eight of us, always in a rental built for four, and yet every time we moved-we moved my father's books and my mothers collectables. I've moved twenty six times. Once nine times in eight years. So I don't keep books for very long. I have three floor-to-ceiling book shelves in the den. When they are full, I weed the lot until I have two or three empty shelves mixed in and start building them up again. When my poetry started getting published I had to make room for that. And I have a few authors whose work I hang on to, but the rest, like good fish and house guests never overstay their welcome. Nursing homes, surgical waiting rooms, pediatric cancer centers all have libraries in dire need of a good read. Pass it on before you pass on and then you can go in peace.
Very good advice. I just wish I could take it.


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