Books for the ladies

September 4, 2012 § 1 Comment

Imagine, just for a moment, your life without books.

I don’t just mean life without shelves full of books. I mean no e-reader, no library card. I mean your life with no easy access to books.

Imagining that possibility is painful for me, but for many people who are homeless, it’s a reality. Sad, isn’t it?

The last project I completed at work included the design and construction of a new home for Mary’s Place, a day shelter for homeless women and their children. They do great work, tending to the daily needs of women while trying to help them get off the streets and into housing and jobs. Marty Hartman, the executive director, always calls her clients “the ladies,” and after working with Marty for a couple of years, that’s how I think of them. Although my younger feminist self bristled at the term, I now like the sense of dignity it conveys, especially for women who have lost so much.

After attending a Seattle 7 Writers event at which donations were collected for the pocket libraries they create for folks who have limited access to books, I thought about giving some of the books I’ve been purging from our library to Mary’s Place. When I emailed Marty to ask about donating some books for the ladies, she replied:

“The gift of reading is an incredible gift and one we treasure! It allows us to escape our struggles and explore new worlds! Such a welcome relief from our journey through homelessness. We love paperback books of all kinds! Hard backs are a little heavy to pack around.”

I know all about escaping into a good book, though my struggles are small compared to those of the ladies. I hadn’t thought about how the weight of a hardback might add to the struggles of someone who carries everything she owns with her each day, but Marty has, and I’m glad she clued me in.

Do you have some paperbacks that are looking for a new home? Please think about giving the gift of reading to the ladies (and their children) who seek shelter and support at Mary’s Place (or, if you’re not in Seattle, your local shelter).
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Conquest of book clutter

August 26, 2012 § 2 Comments

Just when I think I’ve found and catalogued all our books, I discover more… in this case, several boxes of books that we moved down to the basement at some point. I guess they didn’t fit on our bookshelves upstairs, and there wasn’t room for them in the basement bookshelves either. Most were science fiction, and Paul was willing to let go of many of them.


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To boldly go away

August 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Paul reads science fiction the way that I read mysteries...

… which is to say voraciously, and from a young age. He remembers the first sci-fi books that he read in elementary school: Lester Del Rey’s The Runaway Robot, Robert Heinlein’s Red Planet and Podkayne of Mars. Many others followed.

(This is the man who told me, a few months before we moved in together, that it was hard for him to imagine living with someone who hadn’t read JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. I hadn’t. Though I knew he didn’t mean that as a requirement, I bought the trilogy — and The Hobbit, too — and read them all before Paul arrived in Texas to help me move to California. And I enjoyed them thoroughly.)

I’ve finally cataloged almost all of our paperbacks. (I’m using Delicious Library 2, which scans the bar codes on books via my laptop’s camera, or allows me to manually enter data for older ones). We have over 300 science fiction books. (We had about the same number of mysteries before I reduced their number by more than 200.) I asked Paul to review the science fiction list; he was willing to let go of about a third of them. A great start! I’m hoping he’ll decide someday that he’s willing to reduce that number further.

(For the record, I read science fiction and Paul reads mysteries. I’ve read close to half of the sci-fi in our library, and Paul probably a quarter of the mysteries. We each have a pretty good sense of what the other will like, and recommend accordingly. But when it comes to getting rid of books, we each sort through what we bought, hence my mysteries and Paul’s science fiction.)

Since last we talked about books (back in April), I’ve developed quite the library habit. Sometimes I check out more books that I have time to read… but that’s better than buying books that I don’t read. In the past few months, I’ve bought three e-books and one paper book (written by someone I know). I’m happy with that ratio of books out to books in.

And I’m pretty sure that, by the end of the year, all of the books we still have will fit comfortably on our bookshelves.

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Mysteries solved

April 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Were you one of those kids who read under the covers with a flashlight after your parents told you to go to sleep? I would have been, but my bedroom closet had a light, so I read wrapped up in a quilt, sitting on my closet floor. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to read past my bedtime, and my favorite late-night reads have been mysteries. I started with the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books saved from my mother’s childhood, and was hooked. My taste in whodunits became darker and edgier as I got older (how could it not?), but recently I’ve shied away from graphic violence. Too much of that in the real world. Maybe I’ll become one of those gray-haired old ladies surrounded by cats reading cozy British mysteries. So be it.

When I was growing up, many of the books that I read came from either the school library or our neighborhood branch library. I’d check out as many books as they’d let me, devour them, and go back for more. But once I got out of college, I lost my library habit, becoming instead a devotee of the bookstore. I can spend hours in a bookstore, and until recently, found it difficult to walk away without a book – or several – in hand. Back in the day when I moved every couple of years, I shed some books each time I packed up my apartment. We’ve lived in this house for 13 years now, our many bookshelves are overstuffed, and the old tactic of getting rid of a few old books every couple of years to make room for the new isn’t working for me any more. I want to reduce the number of books in the house, not just maintain.

So, I’m getting rid of my paperback mysteries.

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006: Books

January 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

In terms of sheer quantity, we have more books in our house than any other type of object. Our bookshelves – about 100 linear feet of them – are completely full. In some spots, paperbacks are shelved two-deep, with more books slid in horizontally on top, until the shelf is almost a solid mass of paper.

Every few years, when there’s no longer space on our shelves for the recently read, we put together a couple of bags of books (my mysteries and Paul’s science fiction) to donate or sell to a used book store, freeing up a shelf or two for the next round of purchases. And that’s what I did today, gathering up a dozen paperbacks that I didn’t particularly love when I read them, and that I’m happy to pass on to someone else.

Since Paul gave me an electronic reader last year, and got ebook software for his iPad, there’s much less pressure to clear shelf space to make room for new books. But why keep a book that you don’t think you’ll read again? I’m planning to have a lot more space on our bookshelves by the end of 2012.

(I had some help from Sergei with this evening’s photography. Such a good cat.)

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