by Barbara Ross, working away on Maine Clambake #10
I’ve always been a collector of books, but when we moved to our current house in Portland, Maine, I gave myself a stern talking to. As a function of age and economics, it’s unlikely my husband and I will ever live in a home bigger than the one we are in now. (Which is already smaller than the largest one we have lived in, though we shared that one with our children.) Therefore, I declared, in this new house there would be finite space for books. Tough decisions would have to be made. Once the purge was done, if a new book came into the house, another would have to leave.
But what to keep? I’m not a big re-reader, so that wasn’t a factor. (Though I’m thinking I have reached an age where I should start. There are a lot of books I remember loving more than I remember the actual story.) I’m not sure how it evolved, but for the most part what I’ve done has been to keep the work of treasured authors and singularly treasured books. Together this collection now tells the story of my evolution as a writer, as a reader, and as a human.
I’ve gotten pretty good at reading most of the books I consume on my Kindle, which has the added benefit of allowing me to read in bed without turning the light on and disturbing my husband. Because I love bookstores and books, I’ve switched most of my print buying to hardcovers from favored authors.
There are a lot of mystery series on my shelves, of course. For the most part, they sit behind me at eye level, so it’s very handy when I’m doing a Zoom visit with a library and someone asks me about my favorite authors. I simply turn and read off the spines.
Then there are the books I think of as encompassing big-hearted humor, a style very important to me as a reader, and something I wish I was better at as a writer.
When you have a lot of friends who are writers, you go to a lot of book signings and afterwards you have signed books. I find it hard to part with them after I’ve finished reading. It’s even harder for books where I am included in the dedication or in the acknowledgments.
I have three shelves devoted to research for my Maine Clambake novels and writing topics.
And then there’s the flotsam and jetsam of life. Here’s an example. I have some smaller bookshelves that also contain this kind of stuff.
As you can see in the top photo, there are also shelves devoted to my own books. Traditionally published authors get a box of books for each edition that’s published. This used to be pretty great, but now that I’m not doing any in-person events, all four of these bookcases are double-shelved. As of Shucked Apart in February 2021 I’ll be completely out of room.
So that’s it. A treasure trove for some future archeologist trying to understand the formation of the early twenty-first century mid-list writer.
Readers: What about you? What is your book saving, purging, shelving strategy? Let us know!