Saturday, February 13, 2010

Wild Card Weekend - Paula Graves

Please welcome Paula Graves to the PHS - with a Wild Card Weekend post about thinning the stacks....

This past fall, I had to do something so horrible the mere thought of it gives me the heebie-jeebies.

I had to cull out a lot of my books.

Did your inner reader just curl up in the fetal position and start sucking its thumb? Mine did.

It's all my sister's fault. She and her two young daughters live with me, and we decided to move her out of her smaller bedroom upstairs into the basement den, which we were renovating into a small apartment. Unfortunately for me, the basement den was where I'd stored about half my books, forcing me to find room for them upstairs. But here was the rub: if there were room upstairs for the books, they'd have already been up here. So you know what that meant: it was time to cull.

Culling out books is hard for me. I'm a collector by nature, and many of those books I'd had since childhood. But as I went through the books, to my surprise I found that many books that once meant a lot to me I was able to lose without much pain.

Writing books were some of the more obvious casualties, now that I'm published and know a little more about what it takes to be a writer. Many of the books that were once so valuable to me for their information and support headed to charity or the local library in hopes that they educate and inspire other aspiring writers still reaching for the brass ring of publication. Also gone were the piles of romances and other novels I bought over the years as I tried to find my niche as a writer. Not all of them, of course; the ones that spoke to me, that helped me find my genre and my voice, remain on my shelves in an honored place.

Some books I'd bought as reference material for a specific novel could go because the novel was written, or the reference book turned out to be useless. I had books I got rid of because they were literally falling apart at the seams or they duplicated, in some way, other books I have. (I have a large Shakespeare compendium I bought in college that's in wonderful shape; what's the point in holding onto those little paperback versions of specific plays?)

The classics stayed, even if I didn't enjoy them, because I have nieces in elementary school who aren't too far from needing those books for their studies. I have books I seldom read but keep for sentimental reasons, like the books written by a writer friend who passed away tragically early from cancer. I'd kept my college textbooks forever, but I finally let some of them go--Algebra, Trigonometry--while I held onto others--Zoology, Spanish, all my English textbooks--because I think they might be useful to me yet. Who knows when I might write about a hunky biologist and a sassy English professor who end up on the run in South America? (...jotting that idea down in the idea file...)

I've often played along with the old game, "If you were stranded on a deserted island, what's the one book you'd want to have with you?" It's fun to speculate. It's not so much fun, however, to have to reduce your book collection by nearly half. I can attest to that personally.

However, I do think I could probably come up with a list of five books I'd have to have with me: The Bible, Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE, THE STAND by Stephen King and Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. (But I sure would miss ROBERT FROST'S POEMS, PERSUASION, JANE EYRE, the Harry Potter books and THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN).

So, what about you? If you had to trim your book collection drastically, what would go? What would stay? Or is this a subject too horrifying to contemplate?

My current release is Chickasaw County Captive (Harlequin Intrigue, February 2010).

When someone tries to kidnap his daughter, Jefferson County DA Sam Cooper sees red. He wants little Maddy protected, at any cost. Even if that cost includes working with a distractingly attractive detective, Kristen Tandy. He knows Kristen wants to solve the case…so why does she try so hard to stay distant from him and his little girl? Remaining professional is something he fully understands, but the emotional—and physical—scars Kristen tries to hide make Sam deeply interested in turning things personal. And the more protection Kristen offers his daughter, the more her closely guarded vulnerability draws him in. Before long, as the truth of her past is slowly revealed, Sam realizes just how desperate someone is for her to remain silent.…

Read an excerpt at my site:


  1. Oh! I know the pain of letting go of one's books. Even though I was not in my right mind because we were cleaning and my family was driving me nuts so I didn't even bother looking at the books I just gave the boxes to the library.
    Now looking back I so wish I had gone through those boxes because there were some books that I wanted to keep and now I no longer have them.
    I will keep all my books and my family does not understand me with books. They believe ok you read it once thats it give it away well that is not me trust me I will reread my books and I have. Why can't they understand that these books mean a lot to me its a whole other world in these pages that just wait to be turned and cherished and loved.

  2. Oh, no, didn't even look? My stomach just curled into a knot at the thought.

    Of course, the good thing is, most books can be replaced, these days. Unless it's rare or obscure.

    My family gives me grief about some of my keepers, too. They don't understand how you can keep reading the same books over and over.

  3. I can get out of this in my house because my mom is doing it. I still live with my parents to see to their care but back to my parents. My mom is a cookbook packrat. She's been trimming her collection by gifting some of the cookbooks that aren't likely to be used. We're more a Quick & Easy Fix It and Forget It family over Southern Living.

    As for me, when I have to trim, I really find it hard to get rid of keepers. I've gone through some children's books I've had, but mine are very old...and some are worth I spend more time deciding what not to give away.

  4. I know what you mean about getting rid of keepers. It's impossible.

    Your family sounds like my family, too, as far as cooking goes. I've tried to be a Southern Living gal (especially since I live in Southern Living territory, the Birmingham, Alabama area). But if it can't be cooked fast in the microwave or a skillet, it's not worth much to me. I don't have time to cook.

  5. My other half bought me an ebook reader last year with the idea that then there wouldn't bee so many books in the house.
    Shows what a man knows right?
    One day I fear I may RIP, taken out by the avalanche of books currently on the my bedside cabinet, I'm sure they could be lethal. Until then I'll keep reading and hoarding. x

  6. I've been seriously considering buying a Kindle or a Sony Reader or something like that, but I just don't know if anything will ever replace having a real book made of paper in my hands.

  7. I live in a very small cottage so space is a premium. I really have to uber strict with myself and the only books I keep are "keepers". The rest I very reluctantly have to give to the charity shops. But they are always grateful bless! Caroline x

  8. Our house is pretty small, too, at least with five people living in it. My bedroom has one whole wall full of mismatched bookcases, plus there are some smaller bookcases scattered about the house, and the front foyer/hallway has a built in bookcase that's full. If I can figure out how to turn something into a bookcase, I do. :)

    Do any of you want to share your "five books I'd want to have with me if I were stranded on a deserted island" list?

  9. Oh, I have had to cull two times in the past year. Did not make me a happy camper at all. sad days that is for sure. First I got rid of all my 'coffee table' books (expect a few handle that I couldn't part with), then I went through all my nonfiction reference type books and parted with all the ones that I have gotten all the information that I can out of. Then into the fiction, which was the hardest.. First I sorted them by age groups that I read them in, like childhood, teenager, etc. Then I went through each of them and read the first couple of pages and if I wasn't hooked again on the magic of the story I got rid of it. Now I am down to one big bookcase of keepers and one bookcase of books I haven't read yet.
    Books I would take with on a desserted island? Hummm. This is a hard one. I would want the whole JD Robb collection ;-), my Reba, Gillian Anderson, & David Duchovny's biographies, Gone With The Wind, and Little Women. There is just no way I can pick just five. LOL. I would miss my classics and romance novels though.

  10. I love that on the show LOST, despite crashing their plane on a nominally deserted island, they still managed to find books. That's my kind of island.

  11. It's too horrifying to contemplate. And I hope I won't ever have to make that decision since I live in a three bedroom house by myself and one is my "library".

  12. That's one of the benefits of having to please only yourself, Ellen--you get to call the shots. If you want every room to be your library, so be it!