Kindle can't conquer cosy book clutter

Sat, Dec 15, 2012, 00:00

WORD FOR WORD:It was the cobweb that did it. Negotiating my way around the pile of books one morning, I saw that it had formed a little bridge between two of the three piles of books on the floor beside my bed. There is another large tower of books on my bedside locker. And, beside that, a five-tier bookshelf packed to the gills.

The books on the floor were there for one of the following reasons: they have not yet been read; they have been begun but not finished; they are for consultation from time to time; or they are poetry collections, which will not go on the shelf until they have been read in their entirety.

In the interests of hygiene, however, I have moved them to another temporary home on the landing. The danger here is that I might forget about them, but I had to take the risk. There was a shocking total of 59 books on the floor. The 26 on the bedside locker remain in place.

All over the house are many other bookshelves, all packed with books neatly ranged on their spines, but some having shelves deep enough to accommodate more little piles awaiting their own long-term homes and blocking the titles of the already settled books behind them. I should check around there for cobwebs too. All will be well once the long-promised sorting of the books takes place. And the building of more bookshelves. Yes, I do have a Kindle. And yes, I do give books away. This has not sorted the book clutter.

When I go into houses where I don’t see books I feel uneasy. They seem barren and bleak to me. I need the physical presence of books – ones that I or my family have chosen or that others have given us – to feel well.

No doubt this visceral need to be surrounded by actual, as opposed to virtual, books indicates an unhealthy psychological state. I don’t care. Can books do me more harm than a 40in flat-screen TV? I doubt it. Will the ebook generation live happily in bare, bookless houses? Not my own daughters, in whose rooms there is serious evidence that this need for books is a family condition.

Meanwhile, on the floor beside my own bed, another little pile has mysteriously started to grow all by itself, right where the spiders used to live. I’ve no doubt they’ll be back once Santa has completed his deliveries.

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