Tuesday, 9 February 2016
Too many books?
For the first time in my life I'm starting to question whether or not I need to buy any more natural history books. Or at least, if I do buy them, where are they going to go? We have two large alcoves fitted with bookshelves in our sitting room. There is floor to ceiling shelving along our upstairs landing. We have a book case in one of the bedrooms. Most of these are stuffed with natural history books. My books. There is no more room. Everybody else's books have to fight for space under beds, in boxes or stacked along window sills. I don't know how the natural history books took over, but they have. I'm a little ashamed...
Any regular visitor to this blog will know that I keep lists. Needless to say, I have a list of my natural history books. It is even broken down into subjects. No, really. Would you like to see? Birds (151), Lepidoptera (51), Natural History Literature (26), Fungi (5), Botany (60), Insects (28), Mosses (6), Orthoptera (4), Dragonflies (7) and Miscellaneous (26). That's 364 in total. This is not taking into account the hundreds of pamphlets, leaflets, booklets and reports that I also have. And, here's the irony - I reckon that over 300 of them hardly get looked at at all. Some of them never. So why did I buy them? Well, they all seemed like a wise purchase at the time. Some of them (like the Helm/Poysers, Surrey Wildlife Trust or BWPs) became collectable because they were from a certain publisher or part of a set. If the house burned down, how many of them would I definitely replace? Possibly 20.
The majority of my natural history purchases are now what could be termed as 'literature or writing', publications that are not so much field guides or species/family monographs, more works of art that explore the relationship that we as humans have with the wildlife around us. But they still take up space. And I'm still drawn like a moth to a flame to a book shop. Every single one that I pass. I still get a thrill from a purchase. To sit down with a new book, open the pages for the first time, smell the ink, be thrilled by the images and inspired by the words - it's almost as good a feeling as I get from being out in the field itself.
More shelving? Bigger house? Or fewer books? If this is my only problem in life then things cannot be going all that badly, can they? A few years ago I had a cull. I wish I hadn't. Maybe 25-30 books got shown the door, mainly from my early days, books that would have quite a bit of nostalgic value now. I will not make that mistake again.