Book Murderer

It’s such a painful thing to throw away books. It almost feels like throwing away a living being.

With all these kids, we get a lot of donations. People like to bequeath their old clothes, toys, and books to us. I’ve even had people buy up books at library sales and dump them on our doorstep. While I appreciate these gestures, if you factor in that my husband and I are both book hoarders, and that we already owned thousands of books between us when we got married (many of them obtained for free from library trash bins, or for pennies from library book sales) it becomes a problem.

We have a sun room and bedroom filled with nothing but boxes of books (that no one reads, because they’re totally unorganized). The garage is half filled with massive plastic containers of books. Most of those books are adult books (not that kind of adult) or textbooks. I’ve made every effort, over 17 years of parenthood, to liberate the children’s books into the wilds of the house. Every bedroom except that of my 5 and 2 year olds has bookshelves packed with books. And in the common spaces there are large moving boxes (years old, from when we first moved into the house) overflowing with children’s books.

So I finally took it upon myself today to sort through the cardboard boxes and throw away books. I’d already established rules. Keep in mind ALL these books are in poor condition (up to 7 kids and 17 years of abuse) and couldn’t be donated or sold.

1) Anything we got for free would be tossed, unless it was a truly outstanding book.

2) Any book where I didn’t like the art would be tossed (take that, lousy illustrators).

3) Anything my 2nd grader received through a “special” program would be tossed. It’s amazing how much money is poured into educating the lower achieving strata of students. She’s brought home countless learning kits, parent guides, and learning libraries from her various intervention programs. If only that kind of money were spent on high achieving students. We’d probably have Star Trek technology by now.

4) Any damaged books would be tossed– on an inverse scale of desirability. The beloved Calvin and Hobbes books were in shreds, so they were tossed. But less loved books only needed a missing cover to meet the scrapheap.

5) If I just didn’t like the book, or was sick of seeing it, I threw it out. I guess like living beings, some books just rub me the wrong way.

By the time I was done there were five bags of murdered books lined up by the back staircase waiting for sanitation. I neatly arranged the remaining books along the floor by the wall. That’s another thing– I’ve long held a deep-seated fear of bookcases and entertainment centers ever since becoming a mother. Every year hundreds of children are killed by falling furniture. We don’t have bureaus either– at least not in the rooms of the little kids. Even if a piece of furniture is anchored to the wall, the anchor can fail or lose efficacy over time. We did have one bureau fall over on the overachiever at the old house– it was my childhood bureau and thankfully very lightweight. She was only 5 years old but emerged unscathed. Many children are not so lucky.

So I stand before you a book murderer. Supposedly books are going the way of the dodo anyway, though I personally don’t believe that. Books sales are up in Europe and some distributors have made top profits in recent years. My husband works in publishing and remains optimistic. He foresees a hybrid system where electronic books simply augment paper purchases (sort of like DVDs to theater tickets). This is precisely what his company has seen over recent years, so physical book lovers, take heart.

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4 thoughts on “Book Murderer

  1. I can’t do it.

    I can throw away anything except for books. The last time I got rid of some, I took them to the library and donated them. Sure, they may have pretended to be happy with the donation and might have thrown them out, but if that’s the case, I needed them to do my dirty work.

    • You contracted the killing! I would have been too ashamed to dump these on a library (since so many had been purchased for almost nothing from the NYPL). Most of the books looked like they’d been chewed on by feral animals. I also threw away anything that was glaringly politically correct. It’s kind of scary how much brainwashing is in children’s literature.

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