Scarvey column: Wrestling the crazy book lady
By Katie Scarvey
I geared into paring-down mode recently when I realized it was almost impossible to walk around in my basement anymore.
Blame it on books.
Way too many books.
I’m an insatiable collector. I love to troll thrift stores and the occasional yard sale for books.
But there is another me who sometimes emerges from her torpor and attempts to wrestle the crazy book woman into submission.
This more practical me can calculate, in horrified amazement, the square footage of our basement devoted to books that are, for the most part, unloved and unread.
This more sensible me believes in restricting book ownership to volumes that are truly cherished and might actually be read again.
I realized I had a problem when my husband’s best friend Sparky helped us move about 15 years ago.
“What is in all these boxes?” he asked, sweat rolling down his face. I sensed a little testiness.
“Books,” I said.
“Lady, have you ever heard of a library?” he asked.
“Yes, and it’s in these boxes,” I said.
Book lust is a sickness.
I sometimes find myself buying something I already own ó like the hilarious “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris. It was so cheap I couldn’t resist. I’ll give it to a friend, I thought.
That was a year ago, and I still have both copies.
So yes, I have a problem.
But I’m taking action. I’ve gathered together hundreds of books I want to shuck off.
Normally, I cart them all off to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. This time, though, I’ve decided to try something different with at least some of them. A friend told me about an online community called bookmooch.com.
You list your unwanted books there. If someone wants one, you mail it off, at your expense. That part is kind of a pain. But for every book you send off, you earn a point, and for each point, you can “mooch” a book you want from someone else, who will mail it to you. No money ever changes hands.
I can hear you saying, “But you’re not getting rid of books; you’re replacing them.”
These, however, will be books I want. But that presents another problem.
What do I want?
I’m a fairly indiscriminate buyer of books. I tend not to be someone who reads a review and then marches off with deliberation to buy the book.
No, I generally read anything interesting that floats inexpensively into my orbit, which means I’m often reading things three or four or 10 years after everybody else, when they start to surface in thrift stores. (I just read “The Kite Runner” and “Memoirs of a Geisha,” and I’m pretty sure I enjoyed them just as much as I would have if I’d read them when they were on the bestseller list.)Now, however, I must consciously select books.
I’ve come up with only one: Cormac McCarthy’s “Suttree,” which I want my husband to read.
Of course it’s not listed anywhere on bookmooch, so with four credits to spend, I’m at a loss.
But at least I can rule out “Me Talk Pretty One Day.”
Contact Katie Scarvey at email@example.com.