I can easily point the finger of blame at my mother. When I was four she enrolled me in the Weekly Reader Book Club. Two brand new books a month arrived addressed to me. I can still remember the first two, Danny the Dinosaur and Sammy the Seal by Syd Hoff. I digested these books until I knew every line. Two new books found a space on my bookshelf every month. By the time I reached first grade, I had more books than the library in my classroom.
I had a library card too but during the financially shaky NYC of the 70's libraries were closed more often than they were open (my neighborhood library was open twice a week for three hours while I was in school). Plus I found it difficult to return those books when I was finished. What if I needed to re-read it on some rainy Saturday? I liked being able to keep my books close at hand.
When my reading level expanded beyond Weekly Reader's ability to keep me entertained, I acquired books on my own. After school, when my friends raced to the nearest bodega for sodas, chips and candy I headed to the Hallmark store on 207th Street to raid their Penguin classics or the quarter bin at the used bookstore on Broadway.
Over the years I lost the ability to keep up with my acquisitions. There were books I had to have- the ones I raced to the store to get as soon as they were unpacked from their boxes. Then there were the books I'd get around to reading someday. Added to this were gifts and those left sitting out on stoops, just waiting for a new home. Oh, and I shouldn't forget the books I bought on a whim pulled in by a provocative title or cover or because it was really old and covered with dust. As a writer any new addition can be justified, after all- writers must read.
Now after purchasing three new bookshelves for our fiction collection (which doesn't include the books that are still at my mother's house) I realize the time has come to cull this massive collection. Some books I can never imagine living without like anything by Jane Austen or Tolstoy. It's the books I vaguely recall reading but can't remember a single detail about that may have to find another home. Of course, I'll have to give them another read through before I make the final determination. Those that do not make it will have to be sent off to fill up another addict's collection.
Already I'm imagining the new spaces on the shelves ready for new acquisitions. I fear there may be no hope for me.