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We Have A Problem With Books

 Gotta Catch Them All

I have deeply loved books since I was very small, even if it was just the amazing A3 sized(ish) art book my Dad has with paintings by Bosch and the agonising cleverness of Escher. Once I’d gotten over the minor hurdle of actually reading I discovered something I was quite good at, and wanted more of. I remember devouring Enid Blyton, and the particular shame of wasting my hard-earned book tokens on a crappy Faraway Tree book that was more than half pictures. I still feel a fool. But I had to have it – I’d read all the others and desperately wanted to consume more of Silky and Moon Face. Gosh that sounds odd, writing as an adult. At six it felt perfectly reasonable but I’m surprised the disappointment has stayed with me.

Then there were Doctor Who books, although I had to stop after reading an especially terrifying tale involving giant spiders. I can’t remember the title but I’m sure it was one of the Terrance Dicks ones. I loved the Hardy Boys (I still have The Twisted Claw) and eventually had about 70% of them; they were not that easy to get. One of my favourites is The Hardy Boys Survival Guide which teaches you how to make innumerable life-saving devices in the desert out of car wheels. Genius. I cheerfully dived through The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings when I was about 9 and started to get a feel for the fantasyish stuff. There was plenty of sci-fi at home though – Asimov and Clarke were everywhere and I got my first hit of Wyndham.

I’m not sure what I was reading after that, but I do recall the manias for acquiring every book by an author kicking in soon afterwards. It probably coincided with discovering that second hand bookshops offer very reasonably priced books and it feels like discount bookshops appeared when I was about twelve. So I bounded into Eddings and Moorcock, started the acquisition of everything Pratchett (thanks Colin), Steven Donaldson (stick to the first trilogy), got into Gordon R. Dickson, read the Anne Mcaffrey books until they introduced dolphins (why?), discovered that all the Hitchhiker’s books after the first one really aren’t that good (and that the Dirk Gently books are loads better). There are so many authors! I even found quite a lot of fun in the Games Workshop Black Library, Michael Crichton and even John Grisham.


Where Will We Keep Them?

By the time I went to university the volume of my own books was starting to rival Dad’s collection and had spilled out beyond my room. A Levels had taken it’s toll on my ability to read for fun and “studying” philosophy only gave my desire to read a further kicking. I did read for fun, but not as much. That took a few years to recover.

Earning money and living with my other half who is as avid a bookworm as I, possibly more so, has proven to be our library downfall. We used to do the charity shop run around Beeston every couple of weeks, hoovering up any book that could possibly span our interests, from historical fiction, to crime and detective fiction into interesting fantasy (I cannot stand the by the numbers fantasy of George RR Martin) and sci-fi. That covers a lot of ground, but leaves the Jilly Coopers on the shelves. Then, some bastard opened a huge bookshop in Nottingham where all books were a quid and then we were fucked.

Right now we’ve got a wall of books in the front room. The spare “bedroom” (ho ho) has a chimney breast spanning bookshelf with three waist-high piles of books in front of it, a wardrobe packed solidly six books deep, a stack of boxes of books bubbling up from under half of the desk up the wall (never mind the boxes on top of the other wardrobe. Our real bedroom has invisible powers – all of the space under the bed is stuffed with more boxes of books, as are the drawers and a single bookshelf pretends it’s got the only books in the room. It’s getting quite bad. We even managed to get rid of a few a while ago…

Read. Must. Read

We read quickly at least. I’m still just about managing a couple of books a week, unless one of them is a gargantuan Peter F Hamilton or Steven Erikson paper brick, plus a few comic collections; Marilyn’s doing at least that. I reckon I’ve got sixty books waiting to be read (plus Kindle and Comixology – shush). When will I find time to read them all? Will someone pay me to read them? Please…

I don’t think we can stop. That lovely picture of books is what my other half has acquired in the last fortnight. Curse The Works and their refurbishment sale. Sure, most of them cost much less than a quid each, but the only place they’ll fit is the kitchen table. I’m no better… I buy a couple of books for my Kindle every week and maybe order the odd one from Amazon. If we’re fool enough to go to a real bookshop it gets worse. And I buy comics, though now only (usually) from Comixology to read on my tablet. At least they don’t take up space.

Book cupboard restored
The wardrobe. A year ago…


I should add that books are still very welcome gifts!

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0 thoughts on “We Have A Problem With Books

  1. This is an amazing post and one that I feel I could have written, minus the humor, readability, and references to A levels. Interestingly, we also have very similar reading tastes and opinions. While I haven’t read everything that you have, I agree with all you said about those I did read. The only place we diverge is that I live in an apartment and had I not decided long ago to get rid of some books when the sheer volume of them reached a critical mass I would surely be dead, crushed under a huge pile of heavy tomes. Although I do miss certain editions I once had, overall it has worked out pretty well for me.

    A couple of notes. The Doctor Who book was likely Planet of the Spiders (a less inspired title I can not imagine) and while you’re right about the later Hitchhiker books, the sequence at Milliways in the 2nd book is my favorite part of the “trilogy.”

    And lastly, I also still have my copy of the Hardy Boys Survival manual and once tried to make a survival kit like they describe in the book. However, I much prefer an earlier Hardy Boys spinoff, The Hardy Boys Detective Manual, in hardcover, which came out a few years earlier, and had so many great detecting tips. all sadly useless now in the internet era.

    1. We clearly are the finest of people! I have recently declined the opportunity to take all the books I left at my Dad’s house when I left home. It was difficult, but partly from not having seen them for years I managed to get it down from 400 or so to a mere hundredish. I don’t know where I’m going to put them…

      Ah yes, that sounds exactly as terrifying a title as I recall. I seem to remember that the cover of Planet of The Spiders was too horrible for me to even want to touch. You make a good point about Milliways. It’s possible I’m conflating several of the THGGTTG books into one.

      Ah! I had no idea they did more manuals. I don’t know where I got the Survival Manual, but I suspect it was a marvellous second hand bookshop in Burton on Trent that had a charming Dachshund named Carl who would bark until stroked.

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