Organizing guru Peter Walsh says, “You can’t have more books than you have bookshelves.” I totally agree with him—in theory. Let’s just say I won’t be inviting him over for tea anytime soon.
Every room in my house except the bathrooms have bookshelves and, still, there are piles of books on the floor of my office, living room and bedroom. I’ve made a serious attempt to weed my collection, but find that most of the books I’m willing to pass along are unsolicited review copies or something I ordered without doing proper research. The rest refuse to budge.
I look at the English literature textbooks I taught from decades ago and would no more throw them away than I would my daughter’s baby pictures. Libraries built over time tell stories of their own about where we’ve been and who we were. If we’re doing it right, our libraries also speak about the person we are becoming.
As if to reassure me that holding on to old favorites is a good thing, I recently took two books off the shelf that I hadn’t opened in ages. One of those was Jerry Gilles’ Moneylove .
As I browsed through the pages, I had a strong urge to reread the book that had opened my mind to a more prosperous way of thinking and behaving. That book has been in my library for about thirty years and has accompanied me on several moves around the country.
Clifton Fadiman, booklover extraordinare, once said, “When you reread a classic and find more in it, it’s not because there’s more in the book. It’s because there’s more in you.”
As I reacquainted myself with Moneylove, I realized that it wasn’t Gilles’ words and ideas that had changed, but I certainly wasn’t the same person I had been when I first encountered the book.
The other old friend that I spent time with was a woman named Faith Addis. I’m not sure if I got her books here or on a visit to London. At any rate, I do recall that my Aunt Marge had heard about Addis’ book Year of the Cornflake and was so amused by the title that she urged me to track it down.
As I was heading out on a trip, I scanned my bookshelves looking for something to read on my flights. I had wanted to take a novel, but none of my fiction collection seemed right.
Then I spied the Addis books on my business shelf and rather reluctantly grabbed Taking the Biscuit, the final installment of her Down to Earth series.
It turned out to be a perfect choice. I was struck on this reading by something that I hadn’t recognized before: although I’ve read numerous business biographies, I can’t recall any that made me laugh like Addis does.
The series begins after Faith and Brian Addis, who were bored to tears running a florist shop in London, decided to sell their house and move to the Devon countryside where they embarked on a number of entrepreneurial ventures.
At the time of Taking the Biscuit, Faith had built a booming business as a mobile dog groomer. That might not sound like much of an adventure, but in the hands of this skillful storyteller (and observer of human behavior), it’s fascinating.
This book also includes tales of their start-up project turning several glasshouses into a nursery. Faith also has visions of becoming a worm tycoon.
As I shared these adventures, I kept thinking that more people would jump on the entrepreneurial bandwagon if they only knew how much fun people like the Addis couple were having.
Although I had contemplated pruning these books, I decided they were keepers.
So I’m going to continue my attempts to reduce my book collection ever so slightly, but it could take years as I rediscover old friends I’d forgotten and decide to spend time with them again.
To justify doing so, I’ll stop listening to Peter Walsh and instead remember Anna Quindlen’s observation: “I would be most happy if my children grew up to be the kind of people whose idea of decorating is to add more bookshelves.”