Books bought from a shop: 2
Books that arrived through the post: 5
Books still on order: 11
Books given away/sold on e-bay/thrown out/used as kindling on chilly days/in any other way ejected from the household: 0
On Saturday, Jeanette Winterson wrote in the 'Books' section of The Times that she starts each new year by lugging a load of unwanted books to the charity shop, so that she can 'fill up the spaces on the shelves with new possibilities.' An excellent idea. It's just such a pity that I find myself utterly unable to emulate her. I am, as you have probably guessed, a big fan of the new possibilities that new books bring; it's the eviction of old books to make room for them that tends to give me some difficulty. I just can't bring myself to part with them, not even as I witness the bookcases filling up and the unlucky newcomers forced to squat in piles on the floor, next to the shelves that should have been theirs.
There was a brief break with tradition early last year when three very well populated (in the literary sense, that is) rooms found themselves invaded and then subject to a lengthy occupation by The Builders. Until that time, every book that I'd ever owned was still residing under the same roof as me – picture books, early readers, school textbooks, old favourites and new bestsellers – they were all there. But along with the builders came the requirement to thin the herd. A serious cull was called for and it came in the shape of eleven bulging plastic bags-worth of books, divided between the charity shop and one of the local schools.
This mass expulsion left me feeling liberated, no longer restricted by the conviction (hitherto set in stone) that ownership of a book was 'for life'. I was even able to return from my summer holiday and immediately put two of the books I had just read straight into the charity box. I hadn't particularly enjoyed them and I knew that, unlike many other volumes in my possession, I would never wish to read them again, so I sent them out into the world with a happy heart, rejoicing in the knowledge that The Great Book Giveaway of early 2007 had not been a one-off.
And so I believed. But since then? Nothing. More beautiful, shiny books keep coming into the house, but none are leaving. I went into WHSmith for a packet of DVD sleeves yesterday; I left with the sleeves, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and J L Carrell’s The Shakespeare Secret. A short while ago, I went to Tesco’s to pick up some large jiffy bags and wrapping paper and came home with the jiffy bags, wrapping paper, P J Tracy’s Snow Blind and The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt. The Book People told me that they had a sale on, so I popped over to their site – just to satisfy myself that I wasn’t missing anything, you understand – and ended up ordering nine items, mostly reference books of one kind or another.
I just couldn’t say no. I wanted to (kind of – okay, not really), but I couldn’t. And it was this latest order that finally forced me to face the truth that I share with you now: my name is Emma King-Farlow and I’m a bookaholic.