Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Judging a book by its shelf space

I have a love-hate relationship with my Ikea bookshelves. The love is easy to explain - they're so pretty. White, simple and pristine, they keep my office orderly in an understated, elegant way. Heck, they even allow me to display movie posters on the cupboard doors.

Why hate? Well, they've begun to sag. Actually, I think the sagging process started the minute I put my books on them. Ikea reduces the price every year but what they don't tell you is they also reduce the quality until it's virtually just a couple of cardboard sheets acting as shelves. Is it only me who thinks it's ridiculous to sell a bookshelf that's not designed to hold the weight of books? Damn you, Billy Bookcase. If only you didn't look so good.

Maybe it's partly my fault - I have way too many books. So many that my bookshelf sagged from intimidation. It would be justifiable if they were all great books but the fact is among the gems, I also have lots of duds. Books that should never have been published and did the trees which gave up their precious pulp a grave disservice.

Take Paul Theroux, for example. He used to be a brilliant story-teller. I love his earlier writing and could even forgive him for his petty, anti-Singapore grudge. But in his old age, his books have become self-absorbed and incomprehensible drivel. It's like seeing John Lennon degenerate into Justin Bieber. Yet, I keep buying his books, hoping beyond hope that he would revert to his glory days. Three strikes, you're out. Utter waste of paper, waste of my time and waste of my bookshelf space.

Why do I bother to keep them, then? Because, ladies and gentlemen, I'm a book hoarder. Here's roughly my thought process:

"That book was pretty bad, I should dump it."
"But I paid good money for it."
"I'll probably never read it again anyway, so why keep it."
"But some day, my kids might..."

Inevitable conclusion: "Ah well, it doesn't take up much space anyway."
Result: sagging bookshelves

I do give away some books that I really cannot tahan on my shelf anymore but not nearly enough. I have Enid Blytons, Agatha Christies and a whole series of Disney books from my youth, that no one else in this household will ever read. I faithfully saved them for my kids, not realising that Enid Blyton had long gone out of fashion. But when I remember how I've lugged them from house to house (I've moved 7 times in my life, 8 if you count the move to the university hostel), it seems a little sayang to throw them out now. My books are a bit like family - they give you baggage that drive you insane but you feel guilty parting with them.

I recently did a count and discovered that I have 18 unread books on my bookshelf. The crazy thing is, I keep buying more. Sometimes, for no reason other than there was a 10% discount coupon on bookdepository. I have to force myself to edit my buys at book sales. I even have a book entitled, "So Many Books, So Little Time". I don't think I ever finished it.

I don't just buy books, I buy book sets. I have a compulsive urge to collect entire book series, preferably in the same edition, thank you very much. My kids are beneficiaries of this obsession - I rarely turn down book requests (unless it's Twilight or Archie comics).

Please don't ask me why Andre has toy soldiers guarding his books.

You know, being a book hoarder has its plus points. Whenever Lesley-Anne brings home a required reading list for literature, chances are she needs to look no further than my bookshelves.

And when her friends came over and saw my shelves, they went a little berserk. "You have the coolest mum!" they gushed. It's nice to be a hero in the eyes of your child's friends.

Yes, I am a hoarder. But as a friend said, better books than shoes.

“Of course anyone who truly loves books buys more of them than he or she can hope to read in one fleeting lifetime. A good book, resting unopened in its slot on a shelf, full of majestic potentiality, is the most comforting sort of intellectual wallpaper.” - David Quaimen


Yve said...

Get a kindle!

And Enid Blyton isn't out of fashion. My daughter loves the same Enid Blyton books I read all those years ago. Timeless :)

monlim said...

Yve: I would love a kindle but I hate that it's not supported in SG and you have to go around the system to buy books.

Both my kids dislike Enid Blyton leh... and a check with my friends' kids, same. So sad!

Linda said...

Hi mon, love your bookshelf, nice and organized..... My kids disliked Enid too! Told me is "ancient!" :(
I don't have alot of shelves, most are kept in boxes, can't help it, limited space. I still prefer to have a personal touch with books, I don't really fancy reading through a "square" screen. :D

monlim said...

Linda: I'm old fashioned too, I love the feel of a physical book in my hands :)

Zelda said...

Hi Mon, yes I love books too. And I hoard them without feeling guilty. Ikea's Billy bookshelf sure looks good but they SAG. YES THEY SAG!. With the amount of books that we have at home, only my boys' books are displayed in their individual bookcase. I have given up and resorted to piling up my books onto the extra shelving I got my dad to build, in between othe metal shelves in the store room....


monlim said...

Zelda: You're a mum after my own heart! The mums who read my blog are the coolest, heh.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mon,

Your bookshelves are so organised!!! Impressive.

Can you come and help me organise mine - tee hee?


monlim said...

YL: You may not be able to find your books after I organise them! Alphabetical? By genre? By age appropriateness? Keke...

Unknown said...

Hi i have 11 yrs old & 7 yrs old daughters .During meeting teacher session, teacher told me to let them read more former English books , which means books from UK , instead of USA , & preferably some of them are non-fiction books.Can you recommend me some?
Million thanks!! ;-)

monlim said...

Hi Shu Ling, I'm afraid I don't agree that reading UK books is somehow more beneficial than reading books from the US. I also don't agree that non-fiction is better than fiction. Fiction helps kids learn how to use language more effectively.

It's more important for your girls to enjoy reading, so choose good books that they're interested in. Some popular kids authors are Roald Dahl, Anthony Horowitz and Rick Riordan but they may be more suitable for boys. You can also check out my earlier posts on book recommendations (click on the "books" label on the right). Hope the suggestions help!

Unknown said...

HI i think the reason teacher favors UK books is that there will be more proper english grammar & sentence structure...choice of non-fiction is that she feels that most of the PSLE English comprehension passage are extracted from non-fiction books.
I stand neutral , as long as my kids love to read & it does not contain any misleading , violent messages.;-)
Thks for yr recommendation!!

monlim said...

Shu Ling: UK books = better grammar? Umm... I don't think so :) And reading should be more than just preparing for PSLE lah. You're right, as long as your kids read good books that don't have unsavoury messages, that's what matters!

rugs said...

this reads like the story of my life... billy bookshelves, years of books, enid blyton, agatha christie... there appears to be real demographic covering people like us! i agree the billy cases sag pretty soon after you load them, but in the sagged state ours lasted ~6 years before we upgraded to real wood. nothing beats the feel of a physical book... also you can't flip to the end with an e-reader.

monlim said...

Rugs: Haha, good to know the Billys outlived the sagging! I'm getting worried over mine, I've stopped putting heavy books in the middle sections :/

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