Culling my library

I am a confessed book lover.

Most writers are, I’ve found. If you want to be a good writer you are also a reader. That’s a given.

I am also slightly addicted to buying and collecting books. When I married – that was over 40 years ago – combining my library with my wife’s library created a big problem. She is also a bookaholic, and a hoarder of books like me. In our first year of marriage I built two large bookcases. Problem solved – for the time being. Then came along the children and they soon had their books too and their own bookcases. When they left home the problem was slightly improved; part of my library is now in my daughter’s home in Clare and a few are in my son’s home in Sydney. It’s alright; I’ve read most of those books.

About 5 years ago I bought another 4 bookshelves from a well known furniture chain from Scandinavia. I had fun assembling them and stocking them with books. You see, the problem had grown to a critical stage: there were large piles of books everywhere. Problem solved – or so I thought. Over recent months the situation has reached another crisis point: not enough room on the shelves for new and recently acquired books.

My office has been in need of a drastic makeover for several years. The situation would make any bomb site look tidy in comparison. Time for action, so over several hot days recently – it was too unpleasant working in the garden – I attacked ground zero.

My technique is simple: sort and chuck. (Some unkind people might have suggested ‘slash and burn’ would have been more effective.) I progressively sorted through every item on the shelves. Some items didn’t belong – like dozens of computer disks. It’s a BOOK shelf – not a storage cupboard. Some books were obsolete and went straight into our recycling bin. I don’t need a copy of a guide to Microsoft Windows 95 or Word for Windows 6 for Dummies or even a 1998 Melbourne street directory. I have a more current version of the directory and don’t need another, and the computer books are now many years obsolete.

The trouble was that I have trouble throwing away books. I can give them away, I can let people borrow semi-permanently, I can even sell to a second hand book dealer – but throw away! Never!

I’ve changed.

I have to be ruthless and dispose of any book I will no longer read. Some I want to read again – maybe, so I might keep a few. Over the next year the culling will continue until I have enough room on the shelves for the books I want to read again, or I need to use as reference tools.

Now… what about that huge pile of magazines?

Good reading, and good writing.

I have just read my 4000th book

Asterix & Obelix's Birthday

I have just read my 4000th book.

It was Asterix & Obelix’s Birthday: The Golden Book.

Yes, I know there are derogatory names for people like me. I don’t care. I’ve kept a complete list of books and magazines that I have read since 1st September, 1966 when I was still in high school. For the first few years I only recorded the names and authors of books I had finished reading. In more recent years I have also recorded the issue number of magazines that I have read cover to cover. I read most of the magazines I buy in their entirety. I figure that I’ve paid good money for those magazines, so I’m going to get good value for my expenditure. Quirky, yes. Odd, maybe. That’s just me; no apologies will be forthcoming.

Significantly the 4000th book was the latest in one of my favourite series of books – the Asterix comics. I started buying this series in the early 1970s and my children grew up knowing them thoroughly. Every time a new title was published there was severe competition in our family to read it first. They claim that their general knowledge of the history and times of the Roman Empire was largely formed by reading the Asterix books. It is quite a possibility that they also learned to read using these books. I was a teacher librarian at the time so I made sure the school had a good supply of the titles, my family often reading them first.

One of the saddest days of my teaching career was when my entire collection of Asterix books was damaged due to fire in an adjacent classroom. It brought me to tears. The books were rescued, cleaned of soot and are in reasonable condition despite the fire. But even today I still get slightly sooty hands reading them. It was a delight to recently find a title I didn’t have in my library.

Good reading, good writing.

Hello honey!

I had a rather strange encounter with a honey bee recently. It’s behaviour still puzzles me.

A few weeks ago I was sitting on our back veranda enjoying the morning sun on a coolish day and partaking of my morning cup of coffee. I also had a good book to read and all was right with the world.

My enjoyment of the day, the coffee and the book was rudely interrupted by a buzzing bee. It came up close to my coffee mug on the table, hovering only millimetres from the bright blue flowers painted on it. The bee did several close circuits of the mug and decided that the flowers weren’t the genuine sort and with no prospect of a feed.

It then proceeded to hover as close as several centimetres from my face, as if checking to see if I might be a source of nectar. It did this for about ten seconds before flying off to more promising places.

Perhaps it was chastising me for not having real flowers on my coffee mug.

Bookshop chains in trouble

I love bookshops.

I could easily work in one but then I wouldn’t have as much time to read and write. Never mind.

Sadly, news came earlier this week that two big bookshop chains here in Australia are in financial trouble and have gone into voluntary administration. I have enjoyed many visits to both Borders and Angus and Robertson (A&R) shops over the years. A&R actually bought out the struggling Borders sometime in the last year or so. The Australian Borders chain has no financial connections with the American chain which is also in trouble. A&R is one the oldest and most respected chain bookshops in Australia with a history stretching back over 150 years. I’m not sure how this will effect the local shop in my own hometown.

Rapidly growing internet sales of books, especially to overseas giants like Amazon, have been blamed. You can read more details on the ABC website here. I must admit to buying some books online, but only shops here in Australia, and generally only those I can’t physically visit due to distance. These are usually genre specific shops. Most of my books are still bought in traditional bookshops, but I see my buying habits are changing too. I now do a large proportion of my business and bill paying online.

If these two chains o under, the effect on readers will certainly be significant. How this will impact on writers is yet to be seen.

Good reading and good writing.

Happy New Year

Adelaide International Rose Garden

Happy New Year to all my readers.

I hope the year 2011 brings you great joy, peace and at least some success with your writing. As I explained yesterday, one of my main goals for this year is to be published in a variety of forms: novels, picture books, articles, poems, short stories and whatever else life throws on to my path. I am also determined that this year will also see lots of submissions. If you are not submitting to publishers there is no way you can get published, so I’m determined that this is one area of my writing that needs to change.

Other goals:

Life is more than writing, of course, but over the last few years as I completed my MA Creative Writing degree there were some things which were neglected. As I said yesterday, I’m not really into making New Year’s resolutions. I’ve observed that most people don’t keep them however well intentioned they might be. I prefer setting firm goals with definite, achievable targets. My writing goals include a daily target for the number of hours spent on writing, the number of words written and the number of poems and stories submitted to publishers. I also have goals for other aspects of my life. These include:

  1. Reading: writers are readers so this is of utmost importance. This year I plan to read 100 titles (books and magazines; I read most of the magazines I get from cover to cover).
  2. Travel 1: I plan to visit my son and his family in Sydney.
  3. Travel 2: I plan to visit my daughter while she is teaching overseas.
  4. Exercise: I plan to exercise on average five times a week.
  5. Weight loss: I plan to lose 12kg this year through exercise and sensible eating.
  6. Hobby: I plan to go birding at least once a week, taking photos to share on my birding site.

I have many more smaller specific goals, such as cleaning out the garage, cleaning my office, gardening and so on. These are much more detailed plans and I won’t bore you with them here. I like making lists of things to do – and take pleasure in crossing them off when completed.

It looks like it is going to be another busy year.

I’d better plan to have times of relaxation too.

Good writing.