Book Hoarding

office bookcase

My name is Barbara and I’m a book hoarder.

Though I confess I’m still in denial – I mean there’s a reason I can’t give up the books on these shelves (in my office, living room, bedroom.) The reason is that the books are old friends. We have history.  I remember when we met, where I was when I read them, and inside are little marks of love or questions or rows of !!!!!!.  Besides if you write and teach you just never know when you’re going to need that book for research or to quote in class.

livingroom books

Recently I read something (in yet another book, Life Itself  by Roger Ebert, that I now need to find space for) – In his wonderful essay/chapter entitled “Books Do Furnish a Room,”  Ebert figured he and his wife Chaz had three to four thousand in their town house, including all the books he’d owned since he was seven, starting with Huckleberry Finn. He says: “I cannot throw out these books.” He adores his books and goes on for four pages about why he can’t get rid of them. “Some are enchanted because I have personally turned all their pages and read every word.” But he does admit to many he hasn’t read and maybe never will, but  “You just never know. One day I may need to read Finnegans Wake, the Icelandic sagas, Churchill’s history of the Second World War, forty-seven novels by Simenon…”

I wish Ebert hadn’t departed this earth so I could write to him, and he could write more books and review more films. I want to thank him for making my obsession feel normal, and for giving so much pleasure to readers with his own writing.  I may be a book hoarder but I’m in such good company.

bedroom books


  11 comments for “Book Hoarding

  1. Maria
    August 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Reading this gives me a feeling of belonging to a sacred tribe that shares my passion for collecting books. I too have books in every room and cannot bear to part with them. Thank you for sharing.

    • Barbara Abercrombie
      August 5, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      Yes, a sacred tribe indeed. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Lynne Appel
    August 5, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Barbara: What a great piece. I have so often felt the same way. One time I did give away (as per the ex’s shaming) a big batch of my books and I have mourned the loss ever since. I’ve even replaced a few of them, minus the intimate notes in the margins. I recently saw the Ebert documentary based on the book. You should see it. It was… words. But, the reason I am writing is to tell you that you should send this blog post to Chazz….she would love it, and after ‘meeting’ her through the doc, I think she would be very appreciative. Hope all is well….

    • Barbara Abercrombie
      August 5, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      Lynne –
      Thanks. I love hearing that I’ve got a lot of company in this. And I really want to see that movie! Maybe I will send post on to Chaz – Thanks for the suggestion. Hope you’re having a lovely productive summer!

  3. Susan Davis
    August 5, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    What a great story! I just had 8 delivered today and 2 more coming! I’m in the tribe too!

    • Barbara Abercrombie
      August 6, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      Love it!

  4. Laura Smith
    August 5, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Thank you Barbara, as always. I, too, struggle with the weight of all these things accumulated, books being much of that weight, though not all. Hardest to let go of and send down the river are those that were once loved by my grandparents and perhaps even their parents, that I fear, being old and not especially distinguished (the books I mean) will not find homes. So I run my hands on the spines, and find pencil marks on pages made by those who only live in memories now, and return them to their shelves until next time.

    • Barbara Abercrombie
      August 6, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      Oh, Laura, I know what you mean about those family books – I have my father’s manual for engineers dating back to the ’20’s –

  5. Nissi
    June 14, 2015 at 7:05 pm

    I just discovered all these great pieces on the blog and feel like I have won the lottery. My husband claims I will die under a book avalanche one day! We live in a tiny NYC apartment with four children and I have more books than clothing or anything else for that matter. Reading this makes me know that book avalanches are okay and that it’s just my husband spending his time with the wrong people. I’ll sit him down at this blog and he will instantly “get it!”

    • Barbara Abercrombie
      June 15, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      Nissi – Book avalanches are good!

  6. May 8, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Ah, books that line the walls–Thank you from a fellow hoarder of books.


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