Last week, “Confessions of a book hoarder,” an essay Mark Medley wrote for The National Post, received quite a bit of attention, mostly from people (like myself) who are both always adding to already sizable libraries and worrying about the size of said libraries. Of course, the size of Medley’s collection isn’t the problem. His inability to part with pieces of it is:
The problem, in my opinion, is not the number of books I own, but that I am unable to get rid of any of them. I own some terrible, terrible books — you wouldn’t believe how many crap books get published in this country — but cannot, for the life of me, part with a single one. I am a book hoarder, which, in my line of work, is a troublesome problem to have. I had already acquired a (fairly) impressive collection of books before embarking on a career in arts journalism, a career that goes hand-in-hand with free books.
Fair enough. But it isn’t hoarding if you derive pleasure from most of what you’re collecting. Medley’s library isn’t eighty years of newspapers stacked on top of one another, but a result of his passion for books — in short, it’s not pathological. Perhaps I’m going too far, but I can’t sympathize with Medley’s inability to part with whatever sucky books are cluttering his apartment. THERE ARE USED BOOKSTORES THAT WILL GIVE YOU STORE CREDIT FOR THE “CRAP” IN YOUR LIBRARY. Box that shit up. Trade books you don’t like for books you may actually enjoy. Also, if more than 50% of your books are on shelves, you are not a hoarder.
A couple weeks ago, the building next to mine burned down because of actual hoarding. Since the fire, I’ve watched that building get cleaned out and, while I’ve never been to Medley’s apartment, I’m going to assume that his library doesn’t remotely resemble the actual crap I’ve watched come out of that building.
I should add that I’m a big fan of Medley’s work — I regularly read The National Post because of his contributions to it — and hope this isn’t construed as a personal attack. I should also add that the essay is a great read in which Medley’s love for books is evident and moving. I just wish “hoarding” wasn’t brought in to it, because 1. the word is rarely used with much accuracy or precision and 2. (I’m not talking about Medley here) it’s often used in a way that’s curiously self-congratulatory. Mostly, I’m just sick of the subject, which I hope jumped the shark after the awful, awful, awful, Simpsons episode about hoarding that premiered two Sundays ago. Seriously, let it go. I’ll drive you to the used book store/Goodwill of your choice.