Thursday, January 9, 2020

Our first ReadItTorial of 2020 - "The Big Book Cull - Or parting is such sweet sorrow" #ReadItTorial2020

Despite the grand sounding name, "ReadItDaddy Towers" isn't the capacious book-filled mansion you'd probably picture.

In fact we are constantly fighting a (mostly losing) battle against a flood of books - not just the stuff we get sent for review, but our own personal books (yes, amazing isn't it, book bloggers actually buy books as well, who'd have thunk it!)

Now, this isn't some braggy post celebrating the fact that we have a lot of books. It wasn't always that way, and as a kid from a tough working-class upbringing who was once in the position of only getting books that were either donated free from libraries or schools, or hand-me-downs and books scavenged from jumble sales, I can honestly tell you that getting rid of books even now feels like a painful sting.

Before Christmas we had a massive book cull, probably the biggest to date. We had several reasons for doing so (other than the fact that our book-cases now visibly 'bow' under the weight of the 'keepers').

We had got to a point where C's bookcases in her room were filled with books that we all loved, but never read any more. Taking some Marie Kondo-style advice, we thought it was best to donate these to worthy causes, let other kids have a chance to love them as much as we had over the years.

And so the great book cull began.

I almost needed tranquillisers as the first piles began to form. My wife is far more merciless than me, and has absolutely no qualms about putting books into the 'donate' pile that I wouldn't dream of getting rid of. Books that we'd kept and loved since C was a tiny baby. Many books we'd read to her at bedtimes again and again. Books by authors we've loved and still love. Even some books that were signed or annotated. Nothing was spared. I basically sat in a semi-curled up ball rocking on my haunches and let Mrs ReadIt get on with it.

Two musings emerged from this exercise:

1) Never ever EVER trust a book blogger / instagrammer / influencer who shows you photos of their shelves looking utterly pristine, beautifully organised, regimentally colour-sorted and even sorted by author / genre / publisher. These folk are not normal. They are the blogging equivalent of those folk who constantly take photos of their meal when out to dinner. They are some sort of alien android, sent to this earth to torment more chaotically minded folk like us. I am utterly convinced of this.

2) The whole exercise took days. This wasn't because of the actual business of removing books from shelves and creating donation piles. It was mostly from me sighing heavily, clutching each of the former 'keepers' to my chest, cherishing the memories that these books invoked just by a glance at the covers, and of course reading them one last time.

So now our bookcases are a tiny bit emptier but once again they're slowly filling up (I mean book tokens and christmas money = more books, right? And you're duty-bound to keep books you've shelled out your own hard-earned cash on, also right?)

Even though we ended up with a donation pile way in excess of around 300-400 books, we still don't seem to have clawed back that much space (though for the first time in a long while our books are no longer 'double stacked' two layers deep, and new titles slide into the meagre number of gaps fairly easily without having to be hammered home with a lump hammer, which is nice!)

All the culled books went to charitable causes. Some were sold in aid of local charities, but the majority were donated freely to folk who find themselves in the position I was once in, unable to afford gorgeous books or just having a small selection of secondhand books at home.

After ten years of book blogging we know just how vital books are in a child's life so being able to pay it forward in even a fairly small way feels damned good and satisfying, even if the pain of book culling is almost too much to bear for book obsessives like us.