Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Brown paper packages

I love love love books. Is there any better sight than a postman clutching an Amazon parcel? I love the peeling back of the stiff brown cardboard to reveal the fresh book within. That certain smell of newness and pages full of lovely things.

Cookery books and gardening books are my absolute favourites, which is why I recently had to buy a pair of Ikea bookshelves to accommodate them. Mother's Day (as I confessed in a previous post) featured the delight of a book on running which I ordered for myself and handed over to my children to wrap and give to me. This is a common occurrence on my birthday and at Christmas. This past festive season I bought myself three cookery books which were all on special offer and sold them to relatives when they asked me what I wanted as a present. It really wouldn't be a proper Christmas or birthday if I didn't have a book to unwrap.

So what is that one doing in the photograph above, all wrapped as if about to leave me? Well that one is a big book which was written by my University tutor when I was a student doing my BSc in agricultural economics. He talked about that book constantly while we were his students and I dutifully bought it once it came out. Now though, some 20 years later, I realised that I hadn't looked at it for at least a decade and as I had time on my hands and was clearing some clutter I offered it on Amazon for what seemed to be the going rate. This also happened to be more than twice what I originally paid for it, so I've made a neat profit.

But parting with any book is always painful, so as soon as the 'sold' e-mail pinged into my inbox, I wrapped up the book in brown paper. Out of sight, out of mind. I'll try not to feel guilty about letting it go, better it passes on to new hands than spends the rest of its days gathering dust on my shelves.

I have parted with other books over the years too. Paperbacks have been sold in boxes at Brian's office, in car boot sales and have been donated to the church for funds. A big boxful once went to the local library which takes in old strays and finds new homes for them, just as the RSPCA does with unwanted dogs.

My old macroeconomics textbooks were in that box. I was glad to see the back of those menacingly malignant monsters. But some books it seems can come back to haunt. One day I was innocently roaming around the reference part of the library and suddenly there were my books on the shelf in front of me. I opened them up to double check and, sure enough, there were the pencil marks I made on the pages (and I NEVER write in books - only Evil Ones). I put them quickly back on the shelf where they sat smugly, neatly numbered and with a 'property of the library stamp' now adorning their nasty pages. They sit there still awaiting their next victim.


  1. Speaking as someone who has moved once, twice - maybe even 3 or 4 times with some books (probably the husband's) which after 20 years have not been opened, I'd say get rid. Do not be sentimental. Yes, books and the written word are so precious - but why do we keep volumes which are so out of date, have no aesthetic value and just gather dust?

  2. Oh dear I was just about to say how we are dreadful at weeding out books here and then I read mountainears comment and wished she would come over and take charge !!

  3. As someone who has been going through her books these past few weeks, sending some to charity shops, earmarking some for car boot sales, listing some on Amazon and shortly on e-bay too, I can understand your problems. I have two quite valuable books, but it is where to sell them to make best value . . .

    P.S. I cannot imagine a Christmas (or birthday) without books either . . .

  4. Mountainear - Quite right. It's too easy to be sentimental and hang on to things.
    Sally - I think I'd like Moutainear to take charge too!
    Bovey Belle - It's almost a full-time job - but the house will burst if I don't get rid of books. And of course it makes room for new ones...

  5. It is hard to get rid of books isn't it Mags. well done you. Off for a long-overdue catch up now x

  6. When my then-husband and I combined households many years ago, we had a ruthless approach to all the unwanted books, many of them old and unread: we stacked them up in the hall, and invited every visitor to take away whatever they fancied. It only took a few days to get rid of them, and everyone was delighted. I did wonder at some of our visitors. though, tottering home under the weight of the most unreadable old tat.

    I may have to do this again when I move....

  7. I do so LOVE my books. Cookbooks, decorating books, knitting and crochet books (of course I can't crochet), novels...well, all of them really. I've had to part with some over the years but not usually willingly or pleasantly. ;-)


  8. I often wonder why I keep books. I don't keep CD's anymore and all my photographs are digital; I hardly ever re-read books and even if I did, most would not be expensive to re-buy.

    But somehow, they are a store of memories, ideas... a connection with our past. I re-bought all my old university books recently (the oppositie of you selling them!)

    Maybe also I just like the way look in my study.. and the bedroom, the kitchen, the studio...


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