It’s time again to go through my accumulation of old-fashioned printed books and cull out enough of them to de-clutter the place. Not a job I relish, but it has to be done or I’ll perish in the avalanche.
My current hoard is an estimated 375 books, which is actually lean (I've had as many as 500 on hand). They fill the shelf space in my small office and spill over everywhere.
15 volumes on writing, such as an indispensable copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, Roget’s Thesaurus, and On Writing by Stephen King, and Hit Lit by James W. Hall. And a new/old discovery, Professional Fiction Writing from 1978 by Jean Z Owen. Read it if you can find a copy.
12 old editions that are worth money but are richer in nostalgia. A 1944 edition of Tom Sawyer by the incomparable Twain. A 1936 How to Win Friends and Influence People by Carnegie. Several ornately-bound books of poetry and drama, favorites of my newspaper-reporter mother, Edith.
3 by or about Albert Einstein, and A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. I can only dimly understand them, but I keep trying.
2 tomes on guns and other weaponry.
6 novels by foreigners such as Val McDermid, Steig Larsson, Heine Mankell and genteel Anne Perry.
1 1996 debut romance novel, The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks, who lives only a few miles from my modest riverside cottage but a number of economic strata higher in an incredible 35,000-square-foot mansion that love built.
8 about the arts of magic. One is a rare 1940 edition by H.J. Burlingame disclosing secrets of the world-famous prestidigitator Herrmann the Great, with an up-front quotation by legendary Robert Houdin: “A thorough understanding of the human mind is the necessary key to all conjuring.” I think that’s applicable to the art of fiction writing as well, if we wish to conjure up captivating stories.
12 of my college textbooks, because I never could see sweating through a course only to abandon the book. New Highways in College Composition, for example. And The World’s Great Letters. And books on art and classical architecture and science and philosophy.
7 short story volumes. Thriller, for one. The Cocaine Chronicles. And Just After Sunset, by King.
1 book on wood carving that belonged to my Dad, Erol.
3 cartoon books by insane Gary Larson, and a compendium of hilarious New Yorker cartoons. A paperback by Erma Bombeck, in my view one of the best American humorists ever birthed. Also one by Andy Rooney. A Rooney-ism: “If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it.”
6 on how to fly and navigate an airplane, from my student pilot days.
5 on seamanship and sailing and small boat handling.
1 NASA operator’s manual for the Space Shuttle. It’s 3-1/2 inches thick, in a massive ring binder, a gift from a man I knew who’s job it was to video from multiple angles all the STS launches. I think he stole the manual from Cape Kennedy. It’s fascinating.
A scattering of nonfiction by Bill O’Reilly, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bob Berman and others.
And many, many hardcover and paperback mysteries and thrillers , mostly by the top 20 or so best-selling authors of today and yesteryear.
Many of these books will inhabit my office the day I expire (probably from writerly frustration). But others must go. It’ll mean tough choices, but those culled will just have to give way to the constant influx of new volumes. Some will depart via yard sale or donation—never by ignominious discard.
More will accumulate. Even now I’m reading four new novels concurrently.
What does your library look like?
99,918 words in the bank on my novel. Enmeshed in the final difficult scenes.