Ellen (ennienyc) wrote,

The promised bookish blog entry

I have 8 cartons of books in my bedroom that won't fit in the 8 double-and-triple packed, overflowing bookcases in the living room. I put this first in an attempt to impress myself with the craziness of the situation.

Let's backtrack. I've always been a voracious reader. I taught myself to read at age 3 (allegedly by knowing the ABC song and singing it while turning the pages of a book which illustrated a letter per page). As a child, my fantasy was to live in a library. I literally had dreams where I lived in rooms and rooms of books.

Those dreams have been fulfilled, except for the multiple rooms part (but my space is still pretty big for Manhattan). Lest anyone mistake me for an intellectual, the books in question are largely popular fiction (sort of trashy but not true romance), some popular nonfiction, and of course puzzle books. (There are also a few shelves and several boxes and large piles of unread magazines, but we won't go there now.)

If a massive blizzard suddenly struck, I'd have enough to read for months and years. Most of the books have not yet been read; I work hard and don't always have a lot of time to read. Yet I keep acquiring books: at my parents' home, in my building's laundry room book exchange, at library sales, just plain buying (especially online), and, more recently, trading books for other books.

That's the problem. I've been acquiring books addictively. Since 1971, I've been keeping a list of books I want to read, mostly from reviews in the popular press. The booklist (currently numbering 764 books) is on a database, with indicators if the book is in the New York Public Library, and specifically if it's in the branch down the block. I recently went through the list and updated the library availability using the online catalog; the NYPL has almost all these books in their research collection, but only about half (395) are still circulating in any branches. The location of the branch is not a problem, since the library will send any book in the system to my home branch.

When I lost my corporate job in 1996, I resolved not to buy any books except puzzle books, references, or items such as cookbooks that I needed to own rather than take out of the library. This worked for a while. Then I decided to embark on the exercise of reading all the books on my list. This meant I'd have to buy the books not in the library, as I'm not about to sit in the research library and read the noncirculating books.


We are lucky to live in an age where so much is available online. To paraphrase Avenue Q, "the Internet is for books!" The obvious places to feed my addiction are mainstream bookstores like Amazon and B&N, used bookstores like Alibris and ABE Books, and of course eBay (and its sister site half.com). I recently discovered a new wrinkle on eBay: bulk lots of books. I've been buying boxes of (mostly) chick-lit books, even though maybe 1 or 2 are actually on my list. I rationalize that many of the rest COULD have been on my list if I'd been more diligent about reading reviews. Also, buying in bulk saves on postage.

I've started going down the long list of non-NYPL books and buying them, usually at super-cheap prices. It helped that I recently won a $100 Amazon gift certificate (from filling out an online survey - thanks for the referral, Tahnan!), and also just got a $25 Amazon coupon from my Amazon Visa card (these kick in every so often). I warned the concierge downstairs, as boxes and boxes of books began arriving nearly every day.

Not only boxes of books, but little packages of individual books. And not only from eBay and Amazon marketplace sellers, but from traders just like me. Book trading is a whole new wrinkle for me, and very practical as I'm not madly in love with much of what I read, and don't mind passing books along.

Ray Hamel clued me in to BookCrossing. http://bookcrossing.com/referral/ennie
Here you register your books with a number, label them, and eventually send them on their way. You can search other members' lists for books you want, and arrange trades. There is a related site for listing books you want (http://cliff1976.com/bc/bcSearchWishes.asp), and you can also search others' wish lists and arrange more trades.

This can be a little labor-intensive, and other sites are better for matching up wishes and books: Title Trader http://www.titletrader.com/refer.php?name=ennienyc and Paperback Swap http://Ennie.paperbackswap.com. Wastepile http://www.wastepile.com?referral=ennie and the Book Cart http://www.thebookcart.com don't have wish lists, but I've been able to trade there, too (someone on Wastepile took the Tiger game from my former show, still shrink-wrapped, off my hands). And yes, I set up these links so I'll get some sort of credit if anyone joins.

The process of cataloging my books, putting my wish list on the various sites (these first 2 are still in progress), updating my database, getting packages in the mail, checking if the received books have BookCrossing numbers and journaling them, removing received items from online wish lists, checking for duplicates, etc. takes up a lot of time. So much that I can forget that I'm supposed to be READING these books.

All part of the fun. Currently reading: Claire Cook's "Must Love Dogs" which was on the list way before there ever was a movie. In nonfiction, I need to finish Lynda Obst's "Hello He Lied" though I'm tempted to ditch it as I have no intention of becoming a Hollywood producer.

I also continue to have 2 books at a time out from the library. Just read Ira Levin's "Son of Rosemary" (much worse than the original), and have Alan King's autobiography (he lived in Great Neck).

At least it's not alcohol or drugs.

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