The Shelves Paradox
Why do I have more books than can fit on my shelves? If I want to locate Fahrenheit 451, (which surely I must own), after I look through the main shelves in our library and living room, I also have to check the shelf in my upstairs office, the shelves in my son’s and daughter’s rooms, another bookshelf and three more boxes in the attic, and one box in the basement. Then I check my Kindle, too.
This is not a system. This is a happy meandering through my collection or a bothersome, fruitless task, depending on how urgently I want the book and whether I find it. Include the toss-up of whether I’ll still remember what I’m looking for by the time I find everything else, and it’s quite the party here.
We have a very nice public library in our town that accepts books for its book sales. Knowing this, I occasionally cull books from my shelves and drop them in a box in my closet until it gets too full, and then I move the books in shopping bags to my garage to let them attract leaves for a few weeks before I haul them off.
It tends to be raining each time I take books to the library. Don’t ask me why. Recall that bags disintegrate when wet. I try to scamper with my arms loaded, in a great hurry because my next errand invariably involves meeting someone at the airport or getting to the dump before it closes. It’s a soggy, immodest, pathetic business, especially when I end up pulling certain choice titles out of my donation pile because I can’t bear, after all, to let them go.
Naturally, I have started dreaming of more shelves, but I don’t know where to put them. I also yearn paradoxically for simplicity and self-restraint, as it would please me to have only my very favorite books ready to hand. I want more books, but I also want fewer books. I don’t see a solution, frankly. It is one of the great, unsolvable problems of our time.