A Wallpaper of Books!

I’ve been de-cluttering lately. I’ve gotten rid of things I never used — like the Turkish coffee demitasse set with little gold plates & spoons (a gift) and clothes I haven’t worn in years. I managed to find a good home for two pairs of hardly worn Tango shoes and I know the earrings that are too big and brand new travel coffee mugs will finally give pleasure to someone. This is a good feeling.

The books, on the other hand, have been giving me agita.

Apparently, I have no simple keep/lose criteria for books and so I’ve been chipping away at the thousands of volumes that fill the shelves and cabinets in my small studio apartment on an ad hoc basis. I can’t try them on — like a skirt I haven’t worn in a few years — or simply make a judgment on the basis of practicality — like the beautiful but breakable ceramic coasters. Books carry weight beyond their covers.

I’ve sold a few, mainly hardcover books, to the Strand Bookstore (18 Miles of New, Used and Out-of-Print Books) conveniently located near my apartment. I’ve donated bags of books to charity and, since my building began a book exchange, I’ve been bringing mysteries, romances and historical novels down to the basement. Each time I de-accession a book, and I’ve been bringing stacks down to the basement nearly every day, there’s a little twinge of doubt.

Will I read it again? No. Will I refer to it in research? Maybe. Will a friend want to borrow it? Unlikely. Still I waiver.

In my bedroom, I have narrow bookcases filled with paperbacks — primarily mysteries. Individually they are odd reminders of interesting reads, strange travels, good authors, odd experiences and disappointments — collectively they are a wallpaper of books, a comforting blanket of stories that I’m not in a hurry to dismantle.



  1. I’m a frequent de-clutterer and I’ve parted with a lot of books since I’ve moved a couple of times these past few years. I just did another purge when hubby applied for a job on New Zealand, but he didn’t get the job, but I did clear another couple of shelves. My thought process is that if it’s available in e-book form and I get the urge to read it again, I will just download it. I did check and added a few of the ones I got rid of to my book wishlist for future downloads when the mood may strike.

    • Candy Korman

      I frequently cull the clothing closet, but BOOK!!!! So much hard to even get started. I’m in admiration of your periodic purges. Setting criteria and going with it makes sense.

    • Candy Korman

      The Kindle has definitely slowed my rate of acquiring books, but I have years of collecting and it’s a slog. The only books I’ve bought in recent years were illustrated editions of Poe & Dracula, research books (i.s. on poison) and art books. There was also one instance where the Kindle version cost three times as much as the hardcover. Odd but true. I soon discovered that I don’t really like carrying hardcovers around… lol…

  2. I haven’t bought a dead tree book in over two years because a) ebooks are so much cheaper and b) because I hate wearing my reading glasses. Point b) also means that I’m now rather unlikely to re-read the old friends on my bookshelves. Nonetheless… How can I throw out a book I remember with love?

    I used to de-clutter my books as well, back in the pre-Kindle age, and my criterion for whether a book stayed or went was quite simple – if I remembered the story and remembering transported me elsewhere, if only for a moment, the book stayed. If I looked at the title and couldn’t remember anything about the book then it went.

    I suspect, however, that most of the books on your shelves are old friends instead of forgettable strangers. I feel your pain.

    • Candy Korman

      YES! That’s the problem. Too many books are like old friends. The “wallpaper” of books is like a warm, fuzzy blanket of comfort and memories. I’m a softy.

  3. I have considered starting up a trading library in my front yard. I think it would be fun to have a cabinet with books that people can take from and add to as they see fit. You never know what I might find for the future.

    • Candy Korman

      A lot of apartment buildings in NYC have variations on that theme. So far, I’ve taken only one book and deposited dozens. Still, I feel very good about off-loading piles of books!

      It’s true that you don’t know what you’ll find at a stoop sale (or yard sale). Years ago, when I was visiting a friend in New Hampshire, I picked up a copy of Peter Pan illustrated with stills from the first silent movie made of the story. It’s a treasured book. Not one that will wind up in the basement book exchange.

  4. Nice find. A while back I found the first English translation of LaRouse Gastronomique (very influential cook book) in the used books section of the library. Picked it up for 10 bucks. New current copies sell for 80 bucks or more and have been Americanized. This one is very close to the original French.

    • Candy Korman

      What a special find! My original intention with the Peter Pan book was to give it to my lifelong friend Wendy, but I sat down and read it and wound up writing a mystery inspired by it and have not been able to let it leave my home since.

      Cookbooks are one of the categories where conventional publishing is better than electronic and historical cooking — the BEST!