24 August 2009 by Published in: General musings 8 comments

Between us, Susan and I probably have 3000 books. When we bought this house, we had less than half that number. When we bought the house, we had 24 linear feet of floor-to-ceiling bookcases built into one of the five bedrooms. Between us, we filled it.

However, in 14 years, we’ve both bought a lot of books. Before long, I had squeezed Susan out of the room. Then, I filled the built-ins completely and commissioned a couple of custom bookcases. And then all of that was filled. We were supposed to move a couple of years ago, and, in fact, had broken ground on a new house that would have had 65 linear feet of floor to ceiling bookcases. However, Susan got laid off from her job, and we suddenly couldn’t qualify for the financing any more, and we stayed here.

For the past two or three years, I’d just been allowing new books to pile up on the floor because there was nowhere to put them. When it got to be a couple of hundred books that took up pretty much the whole floor of my home office, I realized we had to do something about it. Susan started by reorganizing her books, which, in turn opened up shelf space. I brought home two bookcases that were previously in my office and started moving stuff around yesterday. I worked in all of the new non-Civil War books yesterday as I was moving things around. I was surprised to learn that I now have 3.5 shelves worth of books on the Revolutionary War.

That, however, leaves the Civil War books. I bought a ton of books when we were working on One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863, and I likewise have bought a bunch of books for my other pending projects, such as Monocacy. Without counting them, I would guess that I probably have somewhere between 150 and 200 new books to work into my existing library. That means wholesale moving around of books, which is hot, sweaty work albeit a good and cheap workout.

Last night, after finishing moving the non-Civil War books around, I told Susan that I think that there’s a reasonably good chance that there won’t be room for all of them in my home office, which means some of them will spill into another bedroom. There are bookcases in virtually every possible spot in the house, and they’re all pretty much full at this point. We have room for only two more bookcases around this place, and then I don’t have any idea what we’re going to do. It’s a major dilemma.

At least we’re not my wife’s stepmother. Her personal library, constantly growing, is about 18,000 volumes, which is a truly awesome collection; I can only imagine how much money she’s invested in building that library of hers. My father-in-law had to build a house around Marlene’s library. We’re not THAT bad, but it’s plenty bad around here…..

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Comments

  1. Jeff
    Mon 24th Aug 2009 at 7:58 pm

    (LOL) I have the same problem Eric. I don’t have as many books as you my last count was over 900 so way behind you. I re-organized mine a couple of months ago We are thinking about adding a room or two to our house. I have been telling my wife one of them is for my books. She thinks I’m joking. (LOL). Anyway I guess its a good problem to have. Have a good one.

    Jeff
    (61st Ga)

  2. dan
    Mon 24th Aug 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Eric,
    I think you’ve just made the case (no pun intended, kind of) for the Kindle.
    -Dan

  3. Don Gallagher
    Tue 25th Aug 2009 at 6:43 am

    I’ve got room, you can keep a couple thousand at my house.

  4. Tue 25th Aug 2009 at 7:46 am

    Eric –

    I completely empathise. My wife is constantly urging me to “thin the herd.” By the way, have you ever read the book, “A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes and the Eternal Passion for Books?” :-)

    Paul

  5. Tue 25th Aug 2009 at 8:32 am

    My wife and I have had book problems too. They’re not nearly as big as 3,000, but we have had to turn our dining room into a library with plenty of books trickling into the office. I’ve found that a lot of books that I own are not necessarily worth owning. I can’t get enough of memoirs, diaries, and speech transcripts, but I’ve bought loads of books that can be let go of once I’ve gleamed the necessary points or notes. So I’ve resold a lot of them through eBay, Half, and Amazon, but then I end up using this money to buy more anyway. I think I’ve been able to stem the tide, but the dam will break eventually.

  6. James Durney
    Tue 25th Aug 2009 at 11:07 am

    You cannot have to many books! My wife maintains that you can but understands I do not agree with her on that. Placing them on their side in the bookcase adds room. The display isn’t as nice but it works.

  7. Wed 26th Aug 2009 at 10:48 am

    You know, I’ve never even bothered to count my books. I doubt my collection would total 3,000 but it is still a heck of a lot. Most of my books are at my office because there just isn’t anywhere to put them in our house (and I use them more at the office anyway). However, I do still have some books at the house and more in storage due to lack of shelf and/or room space for them. I would bet that most historians share this problem; its simply in our nature.

  8. Valerie Protopapas
    Fri 28th Aug 2009 at 11:21 am

    My mother used to gently chide me by suggesting that my split level home would soon all be on one level as the result of the weight of the books I/we had. She used to point out that libraries are so expensive to build because they needed extra support and also suggested that if any small library came up for sale, John and I ought to consider buying and living in it! Alas, we missed our opportunity a few years ago! :D

    Books are a passion, no doubt, but mankind is given to that type of passion. I’ve seen folks who collect everything from matchbook covers and stamps (a much easier passion to cope with!) to automobiles (only the wealthy can do that and they don’t have to worry about storage!). Booknuts are no different from other collectors and, frankly, are better than many because at least there is a reason for reading books (acquiring knowledge, for one thing) whereas rooms full of Betty Boop paraphernalia suggests a certain sterility of mind.

    I’ve collected dolls (I have made quite a few actually) and owls (within reason), and, of course, all things associated – however indirectly – with John Singleton Mosby. In fact, as I attempted to procure a scale model of a mountain howitzer, a friend from my local CWRT suggested a site that offered a FULL SIZED model that could actually be fired! I told him that I did not believe even MY long-suffering husband would be prepared for either the expenditure or the presence of a cannon in the family domicile.

    Oh, but for book lovers……………..

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