I’ve been getting rid of my books. Phew. It feels good to get that off my chest. But let me explain.
Books have always been more than the paper and ink they’re made of. Each one was a vessel for the story or information within. So I was greedy for books, hoarding them like Smaug’s treasure. I loved books, treasured them, rereading them and treating them like they were my own, my love, my precious. I’m mixing Middle Earth metaphors here, but the principle is in there somewhere. I loved books, and I couldn’t get enough of them.
Ebooks have changed all that.
Books have almost become a nuisance to me. Reading a paperback means carting it around everywhere I go. I invariably forget it one day and, rather than go without reading, I get my grubby mitts on the ebook, either by buying it from Amazon or borrowing it from my local library. Of course, this means I later have to rummage through the paperback to find the point that I got to. This repeats for a day or two until I give up and just read the ebook.
So, to return to my Smaug metaphor, I no longer slept on my hoard of treasure. My loot was going dusty and unloved. So I took the plunge. I got rid of my books. The only ones I’ve kept are those I just can’t let go of: reference volumes I’m still using, books with cover art that I like, and books with sentimental value.
I used to have a thousand books. Now I have a fraction of that number. My shelves look great; I’ve got room to display my books properly, so I can see the cover art I love so much. And I’m not hoarding all those stories anymore. Instead I’ve shared the wealth so that other people can enjoy it.
If you’re throwing holy water at your screen and ordering me an exorcist, don’t worry; I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of my books entirely. And, to prove my love for books is still real, here are my top ten physical books.
- Ender’s Game – this Orion edition was a gift from my Aunt Judi, and I went on to enjoy all three of the follow-ups (all of which I’ve kept).
- Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Quest – although I have the ebook editions, I’ve kept the first two Fitz trilogies purely for the gorgeous cover art by John Howe.
- Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice (and the sequels) – aside from the fact that they’re really good books, there’s something about the cover art I really like.
- Katharine Briggs’ Encyclopedia of Fairies – if you’ve read any of the Fair Folk series, you might know how many different fay it features, and they nearly all have their genesis in this fantastic book!
- Neil Gaiman’s ‘The Sandman’ series – I reread this recently and found it a little pretentious, but it still tells a marvelous story with beautiful art and it showed me that comics can be so much more than people in spandex hitting each other.
- Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife – this is one of the few books that somehow feels like it should be read in paper form.
- Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves – and this is one of the few books that can only be read in paper form. Seriously, it just would not work as an ebook.
- Timothy Zahn’s ‘Thrawn’ trilogy and Michael A. Stackpole’s ‘X-Wing’ series – these books have to be read in paper form because the publisher hasn’t bothered to create ebooks (and I have a soft spot for these Star Wars novels!)
- J R R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings – weird, given that I’ve never read the third book and I’m not even a big fan of the writing. But a self-respecting fantasy author needs a copy on his shelves. And I’ve actually got two now; one with John Howe’s beautiful cover art, and a hardback edition.
- Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens – not because the paperback is especially pretty, not because I wouldn’t be happy to read the ebook, but because ebooks still struggle when it comes to footnotes; a sign that, as good as they are, ebooks aren’t perfect yet!
Ebooks have made the day-to-day process of reading easy and convenient. But a beautiful paperback or a gorgeous hardback can still turn my head. As great as ebooks are, there’ll always be a special place in my heart for physical books.