Thursday, September 30, 2010

It Came in the Mail

Today has had a number of unsatisfactory elements, but mail was not among them. My husband got an Amazon package (I'd rather he ordered through the local indy, but our local indy doesn't specialize in things like The Chronology of Bronze so I don't fight him about it). I got a royalty statement, with the welcome enclosure of a check, from Abrams. And it appears to be Landfill Week at a certain magazine.

I have a friend who works as a copyeditor for one of the major review sources. They are flooded with review copies and ARCs on a daily basis. Only a few generate actual reviews; and even those that do aren't necessarily going to inspire any need to reread in the reviewer. So what do they do with the extras?

They have a Book Bench. I think it's more like a Book Cubicle these days, but my friend still calls it the Bench. Unwanted books are left on the Bench. Anybody in the office who feels like it can pick through them and take what they want. When a certain critical mass is reached, they are all carted off to a landfill. Not even recycling. Landfill!

So when my friend sees that the critical mass is approaching, she starts going through them systematically and making piles for everybody she knows, and her circle of friends starts receiving thick padded envelopes full of books. This month's take includes two bird books; three if you count the account of the relationship between ostrich plumes, Jews, and the creation of the modern global economy. History of the concepts and the realities of the Little Red Schoolhouse and Germany. Biographies of Ada Blackjack, Bronson and Louisa May Alcott, and the song "Lili Marlene." A vampire novel about Jane Austen. Several books I'm classifying as "Civil War" books, though none of them is about the war per se, one is better described as concerning the Mexican rather than its contemporary the American Civil War, and another is arguably more about women's role in Victorian society. A book about Mr. Harvey, his restaurants, and the taming of the American West. A reprint of Four Years in Europe with Buffalo Bill.

Oh, and the complete first seasons of MonsterQuest and The Magnificent Seven, plus a documentary on the relationship between author Christopher Isherwood and artist Don Bachardy. I guess the 'zine must have started reviewing DVDs, too.

Some of these books I've already read, but others would never have crossed my eyeballs. And - my goodness - if you know a history of the Little Red Schoolhouse exists, don't you have to own it? Where else could you possibly look up the kind of information it must contain? You never know when you might need to know about Jews and ostriches! Most of our non-fiction is acquired on this principle.

The problem, of course, is that big as our house is - and it is pretty big - it still contains a finite amount of space. Damon and I keep buying new books, but soon we will be unable to buy new bookcases; unless we decide to turn the gaming/sewing room or the room with the futon and the second TV into dedicated libraries, with stacks in the middle as well as around the edges.

But every reader has this problem, and my shipments of ARCs snatched from the landfill don't really make it any bigger. Very little Forteana makes it to the Bench, judging from the amount passed on to me; yet that section has had books stuck in sideways on top since late last year, and until we can afford to redo the study and build bookcases to the ceiling, I haven't any place else to put them without redoing my system (again).

So, let 'em come. Better me than the landfill.


  1. Indeed! No books in the landfill! (In some cases we have two rows of books on each shelf.)

  2. Unfortunately, the Forteana bookcase has no back and a lot of Forteana is oversized. Even on the backed bookcases, this works best with uniform-sized paperbacks, so is only really useful in the fiction section.

    It's a lot easier to weed the fiction section. Once you've read a book, you know whether or not you're likely to feel like re-reading it or need it to refer to. Taking the others to the used bookstores is arguably a public service, making them available to impoverished students and kids whose parents won't drive them to the library. But you need such off-the-wall information in the middle of a book sometimes, and Google is this vast unindexed, unedited, unreliable source, so the only good option is an extensive, eclectic non-fiction collection.

    When I'm as rich as J.K. Rowling, I'm buying the bungalows on either side of our house, renovating them, and using them as libraries. I may also start a Writer's B&B with them. It seems to be the only true long-term solution.