Culling the Library

In a recent discussion with Chas he spoke of culling his library and I recoiled in horror. I do so in an ongoing context, and I thought there was no need to do any more. Then one restless and sleepless night I was prowling my library and realized that there was a corner I had not been able to reach into for three years, and that, in my natural history and biology/ science section (everything from nature writing to dinosaurs and cladistics), I had not seen the back row in as long except when searching for a particular volume.

And I cant even WALK in there.

AAARGH! I am a bookoholic!

I started looking around and realized my library contained a lot of my past (and past dreams of the future), frozen in books. Some of that was important, but some was irrelevant or burdensome. For instance: I have bird guides, some outdated, to places I will likely never go. New Guinea? (I DO want to keep books on birds of paradise, out of biophilia, but in my present financial state I’d better keep my Asia and China guides– should fortunes change, guide prices would be the least of it!) Ditto (many) for South America, relics of a slightly more prosperous and perhaps idiotically optimistic past. Africa? I want to keep my heavily- annotated guide from my Zimbabwe trip, but will I ever go back? Probably not there at any rate, with friends dead and the country in ruins. With my more- than- limited funds Eurasia, with southern Asia, plus Alaska, contain my first choices in travel…

Real past records continue important– my half- wrecked (by the Mongolian airline) and scribbled- in Birds of the Soviet Union from my first Mongolia trip will never go. I am a more enthusiastic bird watcher than ever (arguably NOT “birder” or “twitcher”) but books on birding mostly bore. OUT!

My literature and poetry sections, my travel and Central Asia, remain intact– virtually no cull but the constant and ongoing. Now, on to sport. A lot of deadwood in shooting & such. I don’t do much classical bird hunting these days, though may again. Some classics are, some aren’t, some may be but bore. Jack O’Connor– sorry, his Wiki is empty but all shooters know him– was a great rifle writer but didn’t really get shotguns. Out with The Shotgun Book, though two other titles remain…

At the end of two days I have removed a couple of hundred books. My back hurts, but I can walk around and see my entire nature section. Almost nothing is on the floor, and I am contemplating enlarged shelf space, which I now have the room to put in. I see books I had forgotten, that I need to read again. Ideas are popping into my head. I realize that I had begun to dread the chaos of the library, and that now I can enjoy it again.

And with the books soon to sell, and most non- necessary guns to be sold as well (don’t worry, the 16 and Mauser and Big Darne and a few other fan favorites remain) there may soon be a nest egg for Kazakhstan…


  1. I’m on the same page — must be the falling leaves. (Snicker.) Okay. I’ve been feeling mortal and realizing that there are some fields that have changed so drastically that the books I have are simply obsolete: “Animal Aggression” — the very beginnings of science-based thought about inherited temperament. All that “theology and the earth” stuff where they keep trying to get Jesus into it. Language theory. Do I really need my costuming books now? Hmmmm. Hum. Hum.

    I have a fairly good bookstore only fifty miles away in Choteau, but focused on the West and first editions. Some of these books on Montana are pretty dumb…

    Not a gun in the house. Two squirt guns in the garage for intruder cats.

    Prairie Mary

  2. Jungle carbine? Man, you are eclectic!

    Can’t afford the shotguns at this time. I’m looking forward to a more prosperous ’08 too.


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