bitch, please.

Mildly curious, I followed this link to an article about culling down one’s book collection. It appears to part of a series wherein the writer chronicles the process of organizing her life. Okay, let’s go.

She is, by her own admission, a “total bibliophile.” Apparently her parents crammed 1,100 books into their apartment!

. . . er, okay, if you don’t have a lot of space (and they had four rooms in New York), then I suppose that’s a lot. The writer? Her book collection — the combined possessions of herself and her husband — “peaked at 600.”


By the end of the article, they’re down to 200. Our fiction collection consists of more books than her parents had at their incredible height. According to LibaryThing, we own more urban fantasy than this woman now has in her entire collection.

I’m not out to play a game of one-upsmanship; I’m sure there are people reading this who think our 2,260 books are a paltry few. But I just had to roll my eyes at the presentation of 600 as a huge pile of books that must be cut down for the salvation of one’s household. I don’t think the WaPo knows what a real bibliophile is.

0 Responses to “bitch, please.”

  1. mrissa

    Yah, I got to the point where they said of someone, “She has even allowed her husband, Mike, to keep his collection of science-fiction paperbacks from the early 1980s,” and I thought, “And he has even allowed her to keep their marriage! What a deal!” and quit reading.

    I know the women who make their husbands get rid of their SF paperbacks or hide them in the closet in the basement, and if being more bibliophilic than them is the grand and shining standard, I am just no longer interested in reading that person’s opinions on the subject.

    (Maybe there are men making their wives get rid of their SF paperbacks or hide them. But I’ve never met them or heard of them.)

    • Marie Brennan

      Oh, yeah. I totally forgot to even mention that one.

    • janni

      I will never, never understand the sort of marriage where people “let” each other do basic things, and need “permission” to do other basic things. That sort of control just creeps me out.

    • mindstalk

      Well, that might have been the perspective of the author, about the professional organizer friend, than how it actually worked in the organizer’s marriage.

      Having had to deal with my parents’ book collection after they died, and that without the pressure of a landlord, I can sympathize with such an experience leaving one skittish about large collections.

    • fjm

      My ex just hated me reading. I have no idea how we lasted three years.

    • Anonymous

      On a messageboard I used to frequent there was this guy whose wife was making him cull his book collection. I replied that if my partner would ever try to make me throw out my book or anything else that is important to me (action figures, dolls, antiques) I know what would get thrown out of the house and it wouldn’t be the books.


  2. difrancis

    I’ve never counted. I am afraid to count. And that’s after a couple of recent cullings. Sigh.


    • Marie Brennan

      I only know because did the thirteenth labor of Hercules and entered them all into LibraryThing.

      • difrancis

        Wow. Can I borrow him? Cause my husband won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. Or a fifty foot pole.


        • Marie Brennan

          He’d probably bake something for you while he was at it, and then I’m afraid I’d never get him back.

        • kniedzw

          Get a CueCat and play around with LibraryThing. They’re like $5-10 on eBay, and LibraryThing will accept CueCat input via their web form. It makes adding books really easy.

      • brigidsblest

        I did the same thing last year. Took me a month or so, but I’ve been keeping up with new acquisitions since then, which is easier.

  3. shalanar


    Our book collection is somewhere over 2000 right now. I used to have an exact number, but had a complete failure of my inventory database a couple years back, and haven’t restarted that epic project. Our house is less than 1000 square feet. We converted our spare room into a library, and it works. No clutter at all. We can even still have guests overnight. Not a problem.

    600 books is not a huge amount.

    • Marie Brennan

      We’ve got 1270 sq. ft. right now, but come California, we’re probably going to have to figure out how to cram ourselves (and, more to the point, our books) into less.

  4. kendokamel

    A bibliophile who willingly limits the size of her stash?

    Pffft! I say!

  5. celeber

    I love books. I love reading, writing, editing, stroking, re-reading, etc. I can not even fathom letting go of my collection. I have boxes upon boxes of books in my garage because my desk and dresser had gravitiy defying stacks upon them that started to seem a bit hazardous. I box them set them in the garage on one of the shelves in hopes that one day I will have an enormous library that can house all of my little treasures.
    I can not even tell you how many books I own, or that my husband owns, or that any of my three kids own. I can tell you there are books in every room of the house and taking over all the bookshelves.
    Parting with them? Not an option. Asking my husband to part with his? Grounds for divorce. Asking my children to part with theirs? Disownment.

    • Marie Brennan

      I try to part with some on a regular basis, because I dislike having them stuck away in boxes or double-stacked where I can’t see them all; I’d rather weed out the ones that honestly aren’t very good or I’m never going to read or whose use has ended, and make more space for ones I will love and use. They are not all sacred little snowflakes, at least not in the sense of all deserving room on my shelves.

  6. breathingbooks

    That article is just sad. I passed 600 before college and that was with my mom having to write checks to pay our library fines (which were, er, mostly my fault). My collection is also tiny compared to those of many, many people on librarything. It’s a pity the author didn’t do some research.

    • Marie Brennan

      I don’t think it was a “research” kind of article. I think it was a “write a fluff piece about your personal experiences” article.

  7. mmegaera

    Obviously, this woman needs to be told about The Rule: Every person gets three categories of things that are not clutter. By definition.

    Mine are garden plants, quilt fabric (sixteen large bins worth so far [g]), and books.

    I have been known to weed (a librarian term) my books on occasion, but only if I’m headed to Powells in Portland (, which makes it an exercise in futility since I always come back with more than I left with, anyway [g]. I have no idea of the total number. I do have bookcases in every single room of my house, however, even one of the bathrooms.

    The sort of thinking promulgated by this woman is why I will never, ever entrust my home to a professional decorator, even if I had the money. Have you seen most professionally decorated rooms???

    • snickelish

      Yes on the home decorating! Only slightly more disturbing than the beautifully color-coordinated rooms with no bookshelves are the rooms with a bookshelf and books that all match. As though the well-bred home kept a shelf of identically bound volumes as a… statement of intellectualism. Or something. *shudder*

      • Anonymous

        One of my most bewildering discoveries is that Strand Books will sell you a shelf full of matching books for this purpose. You specify the shelf size and appearance; they pick the titles. To be fair, I can see that this would be very useful to a set dresser. (I once tech directed a production of Into the Woods that called for 1200 books.) But they imply that this would be useful in a private home, a notion which I can’t imagine any bookstore owner be willing to conceive.

    • Marie Brennan

      I will never hire a professional decorator, and I will nevernevernever go into something like those TV shows that tell you what not to wear.

      I like that Rule. Books are not clutter for me. Movies might be the second category, I guess, and the third would be . . . costumes? Weapons? Dunno.

      • diatryma

        If you have enough weapons that they might be classified as clutter, no one gets to tell you how to declutter anyway.

      • mmegaera

        I should say that I do make one exception to the “no decorator” rule. One of my older sisters makes her living doing that, but she also personally possesses bookcases in her family room that are floor-to-ceiling and about twelve feet long — and full of books that don’t match [g]. So she understands.

  8. meganbmoore

    200? Pft. If I include manga, I have more than that in my to-be-read pile. Actually, I may not have to inculde the manga.

  9. querldox

    Circa 3500-4000 “book” books here, with over 2500 comics related books/collections.

    We won’t talk about the number of actual comic books.

    Btw, the other “interesting” bit about the article was that it seems to be focused only on their attic. No mention of any books downstairs, or any being easily accessible.

  10. unforth

    1100 books in 4 rooms in NYC?? Wow, they should see my apartment, with over 3000 in 2 rooms. I’m with you – this person is clueless. 🙂

  11. kleenestar

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I read more books in a YEAR than this woman kept.

    We moved into a 400 square foot NYC studio with over 2,000 books. The collection has grown significantly since then; I’ve got 4K+ cataloged and a bunch of boxes still to go. That article is a joke.

    • querldox

      I’ll bite; how are you managing to keep 2000 (now 4000 in the same place?) in a 400 ft^2 place in terms of sheer space?

      • mindstalk

        I’ve got about a 1000 in 30 square meters; if I got rid of some furniture I don’t use much and had fewer windows, or blocked them up, I could get a bunch more shelves in. Give me another 10 square meters…

        6 shelf utility shelf, doubled packed with paperbacks, about 200.
        wooden cases:
        6 shelf, 5, shelf, 4 shelf, 2 shelf, 2 shelf, everything upright and not doublepacked, I’m not at home so guessing 40 books a shelf on average, mostly hardcovers or larger paperbacks, plus a shelf of graphic novels. Just having 6 shelf shelves would give me another 11 shelves. If more of the books are MMPBs you can obviously pack more of them in.

      • kniedzw

        It’s because she and her boy are bonkers. I am pretty sure that Stephen R. Donaldson, Robert Asprin, and Piers Anthony wrote their mattress.

  12. mastadge

    Get a load of this one! Now there’s a bibliophile!

    • mastadge

      And I’m at a count of 2,673 books on LibraryThing — and, at a guess, have about half of them entered. That’s about 2000 prose and poetry, 700 comics. Comics are almost done. ‘nother 2000+ books as I have time to enter ’em.

  13. janni

    We stopped counting around 3000, but that was some years ago. I’m sure it’s more now. In, well, five small rooms instead of four.

    “Are the pages so brittle and yellow that you’re never going to read them?” If so, she says, donate.

    Because even though you find the book unreadable, it makes sense to expect someone else to read it? Ummm.

    And second, “be realistic about the format you like to read them in.” Most people never re-read paperbacks they’ve kept for a while, especially the smaller ones, she says.

    Says who? Around here paperbacks get reread more because they’re, like, portable.

    • metagnat

      The small paperback thing was one that struck me as ridiculous, too. I am at least equally likely to read and re-read those, not just because of the easy and portable form-factor, but because they tend to contain some of my favorite stories. A lot of scifi isn’t ever brought out in bigger form factors, I think. Especially for some sequels.

      For my part, I’ve given up trying to get rid of too many books. The last time I tried I came up with maybe 20 out of a collection that I have never counted. It once got me and my S.O. labled as “the people with all the books” by a friend’s date, though. Heh.

      My current goal is to keep buying books at whatever rate I buy them and actually get/keep them organized. Then, when I die, they can just hang a shingle off the front of the house and turn it into a used bookstore. 🙂


  14. kathleenfoucart

    Yay for being a !

    I don’t have all mine in yet, but I do have a spreadsheet that should have everything in it, and, with my purchase of Midnight Never Come the list now says I’m at 1900. 🙂

  15. brigidsblest

    *rolls eyes*

    My lifetime total was over 10,000. I got rid of over 5K when I moved to Michigan in 1996; that was a mistake, as the friends I moved in with didn’t stay friends, and I much would have rather kept the books, since I was going to lose the friends anyway.

    I underwent another voluntary cut last year; I let my f-list here on LJ plunder the books I was getting rid of, so long as they paid the postage to mail them out. I got rid of about another thousand books then, and currently am just a hair under 5,000, with no intention of stopping anytime soon.

    600? What a piker.

  16. lotuseyes

    is she’s a bibliophile at only 600 books…what does it make me with over 1300 crammed into my 10ft x 10ft bedroom? XD

  17. juushika

    My book collection was at 600 the last time I did a book count—eight years ago when I was in high school. I have no idea where it stands now, and it’s even harder to tell since everything is currently packed into boxes that scatter two homes. 1000 is a minimum, and it’s probably much higher than that.

    I will say, though, that being a poor student did change how I look at book buying. I have access to a strong local library—it doesn’t have an all-inclusive selection, but I still manage to read most of the books that I want just by borrowing them. The books that I can’t borrow and still really want I know are worth purchasing; the books that I read and love so much that I know I’ll want to reread them, probably more than once, are also worth purchasing. The rest of the “just ok,” “just good,” or even forgettable I can read without giving up cash or precious shelf space. It saves money and has kept my local library … well, smaller anyway.

  18. fjm

    We got rid of 2,000 in the last cull. I do know how many we own, and let’s just say that we *are* the local sf library. The current choice tho is that if it is in the British library we don’t buy it.

  19. diatryma

    I haven’t been buying books lately. June will be a book-buying month– yours, Sarah Prineas’, and I’m probably going to give in and get Ursula Vernon’s.

    My parents are gearing up for book purge some summer. Big damn garage sale, advertise lots of cheap paperbacks. Before then, I’ll have to go home, pull boxes out of the attic, sort through for ones I expect to read again, ones I can get at the library if I ever want to read them again, ones I should probably pass to a teenager, things like that.
    I was the major book buyer in my family for years. I really don’t want to sort. Maybe I’ll use LibraryThing as an incentive….

    • diatryma

      Now my shelves are richer by two, one of them yours. I’ll try to get a camera. Very pretty cover– the glossy bits are very cool.

  20. miladyinsanity

    I don’t know.

    Even as a kid, I considered myself a bibliophile even though I didn’t really start buying books until I was 15. I read something like a book a day, minimum (well, 2-3 times a week I’d read 2-4 books in one sitting).

    So I’m not sure that the number of books one owns is a big deal, though it can be.

    • Marie Brennan

      So I’m not sure that the number of books one owns is a big deal, though it can be.

      No, of course not. I was more just snarking the way the article obviously expected the reader to consider 600 “a lot of books,” and 1,100 truly ridiculous. It implies a whole different frame of reference.

  21. mmegaera

    Oh. And I used to be married to a man who did not understand the concept of buying books because we had access to the library. He was the director of that library…

    Note the phrase “used to be”…

  22. lowellboyslash

    This thread is probably mostly shut, but:

    I have no idea how many books I own. Probably more than 500; maybe less than 1,000. So, not too terribly many.

    But more unnerving to me than the number of books is the acceleration of books into my little apartment! Between dating a very generous bibliophile and working at You Know Where, the amount of books I get for basically free now is STAGGERING. You’d think I’d get tired of taking free books off the take shelves at work. But the entire set of Farseer books for free? A copy of any manga my company makes? Travel guides for most of the known world? Yes, please!

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