Are You a Book Hoarder?

Book hoarderAre you a book hoarder?

I think I might be a book hoarder.

I’ve actually given away 250 books since our moving process began in June, but I’ve still got boxes to go through.

My husband won’t let me buy any more bookshelves and, really, I can’t blame him.

But is it book hoarding?

Here’s a definition from the Anxiety and Depression Organization of America:

Hoarding is the compulsive purchasing, acquiring, searching, and saving of items that have little or no value. The behavior usually has deleterious effects—emotional, physical, social, financial, and even legal—for a hoarder and family members.

This isn’t me. I can stop. I have stopped. No one in my family has complained except when it was time to pack or unpack them.

So I did that.

I grew up in a family that valued books–kept at the library. The first book I remember owning was a Golden Press cardboard book called Nature Stamps that came with stickers I placed in the book to illustrate the stories.

How do I know?

Come now.  How could I throw away the first book I ever owned?Book hoarding

(Notice it has a brown paper bag cover? I’m going to let the adorable grandchildren read it to death–something not allowed their parents–and then throw it away. See? I’m making progress.

(And that Heidi? That’s one of the few books my mother owned–the pages are so brown and crumbling, I’m afraid to open it!)

This was our fourteenth move. For years I explained I couldn’t get rid of books because I didn’t know if I’d be able to find them again. I use the library a great deal and at each place we’ve lived, I’ve fallen in love with some book in the local collection. In the days before Amazon, I couldn’t be guaranteed I’d see those books at the next library, so I bought the ones I might want to read again.

Many are comfort novels I read when I can’t sleep. They soothe with their familiarity. Besides, I know how they end if I DO happen to fall asleep!

I held onto the Christian books because there was no telling what church I’d end up in and whether the church library would have what I needed as a reference. Sifting through them now, I see how outdated many are and how my mind either may have changed or simply learned the lessons that were so extraordinary once. Jesus in Genesis by Michael Esses, is an example. I know the Christology now, it’s time to pass that one on to a new believer.

Some I’m not so sure of. My copy of The Shack is annotated because I led a dissection of the book. Where should it go? The church library or the public library? Who would benefit more from reading my notes?

I’m trying to be ruthless. Books I haven’t read or thought about in years need to go. Books I have multiple copies of–the Bible, obviously–need to be passed along. Volumes I’ll need for research are perched beside me in the office. Atlases we regularly consult, all the travel guides, books written by friends, they remain on the shelves.

And of course all my children’s books are here waiting for the adorable grandchildren to find them in what we call “the giggle room.”

They’re worn, torn, scratched and the pages are smooth from use. I don’t know how many copies of Richard Scarry‘s Cars and Trucks and Things that Go I ultimately will purchase. But they’re here now and they’ll stay.

You’ve got to draw a line somewhere–book hoarder or not!

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  1. linda

     /  September 24, 2013

    I was a hoarder, that is until we had a house fire. Now I live in a rather small space, no room for bookshelves. some I have reacquired via kindle, though that is not the same as holding a real book. Some I have reread through the local library. Others, if I still had them I would enjpy them. But quite frankly, most I don’t remember I ever owned until a memory prompt comes along. Real books on a shelf can be those memory prompts. I miss having books around me.

    • Michelle Ule

       /  September 25, 2013

      Good point about the memory prompt. Reading through comfort novels, too, reminds me of the good and bad events that drove me to the book initially. Mary Stewart’s Airs Above the Ground takes me back to a bewildering January when life seemed totally out of control and lost.

      But it’s still a good story–and since I originally read it from the library, I don’t have tear stains on my current copy!

  2. juliesjohnson

     /  September 24, 2013

    Michelle, you’re totally off the hook. By definitiion: “Hoarding is the compulsive purchasing, acquiring, searching, and saving of items that have little or no value.’
    What, my fellow book lover, has more value than a book you treasure?

    Did I mention to you that I’ve been making my books available to my neighbors (adults and children alike) by placing them in a tiny lending library box that my husband made for me. It’s like a book exchange. Some get returned. Others get replaced. It’s such fun to see the neighbor girls, especially in the summer, ride their bikes and scooters over to pick out books.

    • Michelle Ule

       /  September 25, 2013

      I have seen your book box mentioned on Facebook, Julie. You should post a photo! It sounds like a wonderful idea. Since we have a book cart at church which is heavily picked over by the AA folks, that’s where I take my Christian treasures. The annual library book sale is next month, so I’ll be hauling several box-fulls down there this week. I use the library so much, it’s the least I can do!

      (But I’ll skip the sale!) 🙂

  3. I am NOT a book hoarder. If I say that often enough it might be true.


    Reading is a huge part of my life, the more so that pain no longer lets me sleep more than a few minutes a night. (Yes, you can live this way, and no, I don’t suggest you try it…as of now I’ve been awake since last Thursday. Ugh.)

    I have a number of ‘reread’ books, from which I draw either comfort or inspiration…or they’re just a good read.

    Or they change the rules by which I find myself forced to live.

    One of these is M.G Sheftall’s “Blossoms in the Wind – Human Legacies of the Kamikaze”. It’s hardly bedtime reading for kids (unless your kids are interested in why someone would crash an airplane into a ship in wartime). I’ve read it five times…just finished it again two days ago.

    It’s really about commitment, and love. What would YOU do if you were convinced that your nation would be destroyed, and your family tortured and killed? Would you volunteer to lay down your life to try to save those you love?

    Uh…isn’t that what Jesus did?

    It’s a book that in its portrayal of true tragedy, gives me hope that even though it hurts too much to walk, I can still walk, and even run. I can spend the energy I have in the service of the woman and dogs I love, and it has meaning, and honor.

    There are gems like this in my shelves and – yes – stacks of books. Many gems. I’m so rich!

    I look down when I read.

    But my heart looks up.

    • Michelle Ule

       /  September 25, 2013

      So I’m not a hoarder, but when someone suggests an interesting book, I usually put it on reserve at the library. By the time the book shows up, it’s like Christmas–I’ve forgotten why I ordered it!

      Blossoms on the Wind is not at my library but, yes, it is available on Amazon. It should make a terrific Christmas present for–my brother (but don’t tell him!).

      Thanks for the suggestion, Andrew.

      And isn’t it wonderful that God gave us story to help distract us from the issues at hand–sometimes, perhaps, even pain. I read late in the night, too many nights.


  4. Joyce Bishop

     /  September 24, 2013

    I am not a book hoarder–but I love my Books.My husband was so sweet–and made me a big Bookcase–for an anniversary present. I’ve told people my Books are my friends. I learn history from them–I laugh through some–and cry through others. I will never say I have too many.

    • Michelle Ule

       /  September 25, 2013

      Nice gift. My husband made three matching bookcases for our Washington home. They’ve moved around with us since, rarely sitting next to each other again, but still matching!

      Maybe books are like the Velveteen rabbit (just reread that), as long as someone loves them, they’re alive! 🙂

  5. I am in a family of book hoarders. It is pleasant to live among like-minded souls. We each like to read, but have our own favorite classification of books. If we all liked the same it would be a true space saver. I have been donating my Christian books and Bibles to Christian Library International so that has been quite the shelf clearer for me.

    • Michelle Ule

       /  September 25, 2013

      That sounds interesting, Janice. Christian Library International: http://christianlibraryinternational.org/

      They donate books to prisoners. I thought to send a book to a prisoner you had to have it mailed from the publisher. Perhaps it’s different when it comes from an organization. Thanks for informing me of another positive outlet.

  6. I have many books because I review them for various publishers but based on the definition of hoarder, I don’t believe I am one. I pass books along regularly to family and friends, and donate to my church library. That being said, I keep the cream of the crop (at least in my eyes) because they may be signed by the author, who has become a friend or close acquaintance. There are a couple of books I’ve regularly re-read over the years, like my Austen collection, for pure enjoyment. I probably keep more books than I should but I am not compelled to buy books to the detriment of my family 🙂

    • Michelle Ule

       /  September 25, 2013

      I’m with you on this, Anne. If a book is signed by a friend–even if I didn’t like it (shhh) I keep it!.

      What has amused me over the years is how the children gravitated to our books, sometimes to their surprise. “You read this!”

      Perhaps that should be the anti-hoarder definition–if someone else in your family reads your books! 🙂

  7. Hoarder, no. Collector, yes.

    Years ago it used to amuse me, when I had one large bookcase in my living room (the only one visible to visitors, at that point in my life), people would come in and say, “You have a lot of books!” I might or might tell them I had multiple bookcases in other rooms.

    When my husband and I were getting ready to marry, one of our common dreams was “to have a library someday.” Between us we easily had enough books for one, so we turned the family room into a library, the living room into a family room, and we’re both happy.

    I did give away, throw away, or sell many hundreds of books in preparation to marry and move. But before that marriage, I had more than a dozen bookcases (various sizes up to three feet wide and six feet tall), and I’ve acquired a husband who has plenty of his own books–similar interests in books, but amazingly little overlap. And where the “overlap” meant that we both had a book in a nice edition (leather covers, Folio editions, etc.), we chose to keep both copies.

    But since I have read most of my books, and even can find most of them on the shelf fairly quickly, “hoarder” isn’t the right word.

    • Michelle Ule

       /  September 27, 2013

      You’re not a hoarder, either, Cheryl, because the books are part of who you are and you use them–you don’t leave them on the shelves (or stacked around the room), without opening them!

      Would love to see that library some day!

  8. sunshine758

     /  September 27, 2013

    Are stamp collectors hoarders? What about coin collectors? Just because books are larger and take up more space, does that make it hoarding? I think not. I AM A BOOK COLLECTOR AND VERY PROUD OF IT!!

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