I spotted these Penguin Clothbound classics on Amazon, and I decided to take a look at them.
I’m a voracious reader. I always thought I would be the last person to embrace the new trend of eBooks. I still write some of my books on paper before I type them up, and I do all my planning on paper, too, and type that up. There’s something reassuringly solid about a nice book, with pages that can be turned. However, there’s distinct advantages to ebooks when you read in the quantity that I do. If you only have 1 chapter left, you don’t have the dilemma about whether to cram 2 books into your handbag for the day, or whether to risk having nothing to read at lunchtime. Physical books take up far too much room if you can’t afford a large house. Before I moved in with my husband, I moved around a lot, because I didn’t really have anywhere permanent to live, which meant that about once every three months, I would have to fill up a stacking crate or two with books, and carry them (I didn’t own a car) to a charity shop. I feel sad when I think of all the books I no longer have, books I liked, and would like to read again, because I simply didn’t have the space to keep them all. I still remember dragging those heavy boxes of books, my arms nearly falling off under the weight, to make sure they found a new home.
I had a very strict rule, though; if I couldn’t carry it, I couldn’t keep it. That was borne from being homeless and destitute a few too many times, because when you get somewhere to live after being homeless, especially if some charitable agency donates clothes or books to you, it’s easy to accumulate a lot of things again in a short space of time, but not necessarily the most useful or appropriate things. You feel bad about getting rid of them, though, and so I wouldn’t. Then, every time I ended up homeless again, usually because my mother hadn’t paid our rent, or she’d threatened to stab the landlord/lady who owned the place we were living in, or she’d been offensive or violent toward another resident in wherever we lived, we’d end up homeless again. And when there were so many objects, it was hard to know what to take when we had limited space and only very short amounts of time.
As an adult, then, I held fast to that rule, and because I had to move so frequently for work, I found it difficult to let the books go, but sometimes you have to make hard decisions when you haven’t quite found a place where you and things go together (shameless Breakfast at Tiffany’s reference… another book I no longer have).
Then, one day, about six and a half years ago, I found a place where I and things might go together, only my husband had already filled it all with his things and there wasn’t really any room for me and I didn’t feel it was my place to say anything. So about eighteen months later, when we had to move to a different city for teacher training, we upsized and rented an enormous house, many times the size of the one we have now. That house had about 4800 feet of floor space excluding the garages which the landlord retained. It had two kitchens, a laundry, servants’ quarters (we kept the bunny down there), and the sort of staircase with a huge sweep to it. We accumulated a lot of stuff but I was still reluctant to indiscriminately bring things into the house. I will never forget the time I came home from a long day and found that my husband had ordered eight enormous bookcases to turn one of the huge rooms of the house into a library for his 2000 books. To match, he added a handmade wooden dining table which seated twelve. I was initially apoplectic at all this unexpected furniture, but I got used to it.
This was when we had money, and prospects, and all sorts of other wonderful things (like a future). Those things have all been in extremely short supply for the last few years.
We moved to this (much smaller, but still fine for 2 people, at 600 feet square) house in late 2013 and because we were both working 14 hours a day, five days a week, we had to move overnight (we did it ourselves as we had no money for a removal van) and we literally just moved everything with no thought as to what to keep. I put in a lot of hard work clearing out our house over the last couple of years to declutter it of all the things we had accumulated when we lived in that proper house. One of my hardest tasks was to read the first three chapters of every single book in my husband’s 2000-book library to decide which ones were worth keeping. I pared it down by about 60% (and ended up reading most of the books we kept). The thing is, those 2000 books (now about 800) were all sci-fi and fantasy novels, of varying quality and noteworthiness, so we didn’t have copies of quite a few very common books, but we did have duplicates of Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, amongst other things. Since my husband came with such an enormous library, I haven’t felt able to buy books for myself. Ebooks came to the rescue, on that score, and before I got Kindle for PC/iPhone, I missed so many new book releases because I felt bad for adding to the unmanageable collection of books we already had.
So with all that in mind, it feels a little bit ridiculous that I recently realized the value in having a nice set of decorative novels around the house. So when I learned about the Penguin Clothbound Classics, I was very taken by the design. I took a look through the list to see which books had been clothbound, and imagine my surprise when I found they’d picked Dracula and Frankenstein.
Frankenstein is a book that made a big impression on me when I first read it at fourteen (ditch the popular version retold a thousand times in film). It’s about a construct whose story reflects the otherness and isolation of trying to live in a world which often seems as though it’s made for a different type of person.
What I really love about this version is it has anatomical drawings on the cover, of hearts, but they’re not pretty puffy hearts, they’re biology diagrams of hearts. I thought that was especially appropriate for the subject matter.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a story I started reading on my Kindle for iPhone about a year ago. I love that you can get free ebooks of all the great classics, but the Kindle version of Dracula that I got was really badly formatted and I gave up after about 30 pages. I think some books are better suited to being in paper form, so I’ve bought this version. The cover is all black, and while the design is not as inspired as that on the Frankenstein, I still rather liked it:
Here’s the title page inside each book:
Here’s a page at random from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to show the text size and layout quality:
I’m really looking forward to reading Dracula next!
I’ve got a bunch more of these on my mental wishlist, but at £11.99-£14.99 I could only let myself have 2 this time. Perhaps I’ll have the whole set before we emigrate, which is very likely to be August now, but probably not. There’s about 40 of them all told, which is £800-£1000, and there’s no way I can spend that much money on books!! I can’t talk about where we’re emigrating at the moment because it’s all working out, for the second time in my life something is actually working the way it ought to, and I don’t want to jinx it all, but I promise I’ll tell you all before we depart.
Here’s Dracula on Amazon.com. Apparently Frankenstein is out of print in the US but it’s here on Amazon.co.uk.
Today I want to talk about something that very regularly affects writers, beauty bloggers and photography bloggers, and occasionally affects travel bloggers too: Content theft. How does it happen and what can you do about it?
I am a moderate traffic website; according to both Amazon and Alexa, I am not yet in the big leagues (I’m in the top 1,000,000 websites, but so are 999,999 other sites). I do have some very good SEO, however, and I score first result on the first page of Google for at least 10 different search terms, because I work very hard to make my content relevant to what people are searching for. Because of this, I’m not blind to the crappy games some other sites play so they can rank higher in Google.
The past two days, however, my single most popular article has taken a nosedive. My traffic has plummeted and I have lost more than a hundred visitors a day. When investigating this, I discovered that a content-farm type website has basically stolen my top ranking article, reworded it and dumbed it down, and posted it on their site. They aren’t ranking above me, but they’ve got enough relevance that they’ve taken some of my traffic away. The thing is, despite the fact they’ve directly paraphrased my article, and added in some photoshopped snazzy pictures (that they also haven’t attributed), they’ve not actually said where they got it from. And they haven’t asked me if they could steal my stuff.
I get by solely on my income from this website and from the books I write (on my author website). This website (Delight and Inspire) generates 20-100% of my income on any given month. Needless to say, I don’t make much money. So when someone steals my personally researched and written articles, changes a few words to get past Google’s duplication penalties, and, by proxy, prevents visitors from finding my site, it makes me feel worried. If people took every article from my site and did that, I’d have no income. It would be like someone putting the PDF of my books on torrent sites, and it’s obviously not a nice feeling.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about it because they haven’t just copied and pasted my work. So this is an exercise in pragmatism more than a solution. I am usually not remotely precious about copyright, and when people email me, asking if they can, for example, translate my articles into Italian, I am usually happy that the information is getting shared. But that’s the difference. The cool Italian guy asked, and I knew they were using my content in that way, and I’m happy with the result, which is that Italians can now read that information in their own language. I now get 1-2 emails a week from Italians trying to cross the Bering Strait (true story). Generally, I think sharing information is the way forward.
When someone does it without acknowledging the source material, however, they’re just trying to make themselves look good with other people’s hard work. And that’s not ok. I would bet money that the person who stole my content was paid by the content farm for “creating” my content. But since half the internet is run by automatic bots and computers these days, with little user generated interaction on sites like Livestrong (a content farm), there’s no-one I can contact about this issue (normally, you can contact someone and ask for the page to be taken down or attributed).
So after the initial infuriation has worn off, I am left with the truth of the situation. Someone stole my stuff, they fooled Google (and whoever paid them to “write” it) and my income has been affected. I cannot do anything about it, so I can either go crazy (crazier) with rage and fury at this daylight robbery and turn into a pathetic dribbling ball of tears, or I can choose to let it go.
Imma let it go, and looking to the future, I’m going to try to ensure that I keep producing fresh, relevant content for my readers that ensures I always rank first on Google for other things. Like my lip plumpers review or my eyelash serum comparison reviews that I have written.
How have you dealt with copyright theft? Let me know in the comments!
For those of you who don’t actually know, the Neverending Story was a movie from the 80s with a super-catchy theme tune. It was also a book by Michael Ende, a German dude. It was fashionable at the time for authors to sell movie rights to Hollywood then, upon seeing the film of their work, complaining that it destroyed their work and that they wanted nothing more to do with it (see also: Alan Moore).
Michael Ende sorta did that. So you don’t know who he is any more.
It’s actually a good read, in the same league as The Princess Bride. And The Neverending Story is also a great film. I liked the sequels when I was little, but they didn’t have the same timelessness as the first one.
But my favorite part is the theme tune by Limahl. The lyrics are just… just perfect.
So the book I can’t tell you about on here has now made it (quite a long way) into the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller List for a third week!! SQUEE I WROTE A GODDAMN BESTSELLER, BITCHES!! (…and my in-laws and assorted relatives still think I’m an unemployed layabout loser working occasional days as a substitute teacher. And I can’t tell them otherwise. They probably wouldn’t believe me if I did. It’s like being a superhero only my secret power is NSFW).
Oh and in case you’re wondering, the money doesn’t get good until you hit the top 5, so no, I’m still poor. This person had a #1 bestseller and still didn’t make anything. And I’m sure some sanctimonious middle class person will try to say “but that’s not why you should write” because you *should* write to be poor (which is fine if you’ve never had to choose between eating or paying rent I suppose), to be unappreciated (which is fine if you believe you’re Van Gogh or something), to be ignored (see prev. re: Van Gogh), because that’s the stereotype we imagine for writers and what we tell ourselves to feel better about the fact that some people are spending 16 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week doing something they actually want to do (yes, I actually do, come hypomania or depression, I work very hard and some days I only write 50 words but it’s 50 more than I had the day before, other days what I write makes no sense, but that’s okay because it clears my brain out, it’s like scraping the gloop out of the sink so you can wash dishes in it, instead of letting that gloop touch your crockery). Like we imagine that all the pretty people are dumb and all ugly people have hidden depths, instead of seeing that some pretty people are clever and some ugly people are very shallow. I will never stop appreciating being able to write. So I will look forward to writing being my full time income one day but obviously, the money I’ll get in several months’ time (bookstores pay s-l-o-w-l-y) is a LOT better than nothing and while it isn’t going to pay all my bills that month, it at least goes a long way towards it and therefore validates my Goddamn life choices. And I didn’t even have to take my clothes off this time.* 😛
*I am neither confirming nor denying having done this in the past although I do feel it’s high time my cat** wrote a guest post because it would make interesting reading.
**I don’t have a cat. That’s sort of the point.
And apparently every year Amazon has some special deals that are only available to Prime subscribers. This year, that’s happening on July 12th. From today up to July 12th, Amazon has loads of special pre-prime day deals to get you in the mood (or something).
My personal opinion? Signing up for a free 30 day trial of Amazon Prime, including free shipping and loads of TV shows, makes a lot of sense if you want to do some bargainous shopping. This is a very good month to try Amazon Prime for free, just remember (if you don’t intend to keep it) to cancel before the month is up, and sit back and reap the rewards.
I had Amazon Prime for about a year but I cancelled it in favor of Netflix because they didn’t have such a good range of TV shows. I think I’d consider it again now that the Clarkson Hammond and May show (formerly Top Gear) is on there. Also did you hear about the BBC’s so-called “Top Gear” that they’ve been trying to flog as a replacement to the (not-quite-original but definitely best) Clarkson version? Chris Evans, the show’s main host, and seasoned TV presenting veteran, has just quit. They’re flogging a dead horse, and I’ve been saying since Clarkson got sacked, that nobody in their right mind would sign up to take the place of Clarkson Hammond and May, the audience for that show is too pre-prejudiced against change. They’d have been better off doing a total re-format, since Clarkson invented most of the stuff they did on there anyway. Those of you who know me in person know how much I appreciate Jeremy Clarkson’s contributions to journalism (oh God, the way he can get you from the opening sentence, I wish I could do that), he literally invented new ways to write/talk about cars, and no-one can really replace that. But you can watch Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond messing around in cars IN OCTOBER on Amazon Prime with the 30 day trial in the UK; the BBC was really shitty about copyrights on all the stuff Clarkson came up with while he worked for them, so Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May have renamed their new car show “Grand Tour.” I wish I was eligible for another free trial of Amazon Prime now 😦
Also, this rainbow wig is legit gorgeous I wish I could afford it, its so beautiful, and I wanted to show you all, but WordPress doesn’t allow image links from Amazon. Last time I accidentally pasted the wrong link onto a WordPress post, WordPress actually shut this blog down within seconds, not giving me a chance to fix the problem, and I had to email them 5 or 6 times over 2 days to get them to understand that it was an honest mistake. I totally don’t get the weird and wonderful policies that various blogging sites have regarding their smallprint. I think now I have my own domain I’m allowed to do more advertising, but I look at some of the sites that have come up in reader over the past few months, wall-to-wall advertising, and I simply want to vomit in disgust. The whole marketing model is messed up if they make money from that shit. It’s like those trees falling in the woods and concussing bears who are trying to take a dump.
A concept I have come across today is called washing your bowl. The inspiration for today’s concept came from this:
“There’s a famous Zen story that goes:
A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”
Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?
The monk replied, “I have eaten.”
Joshu said, “Then you had better wash your bowl.”
At that moment the monk was enlightened.”
The meaning that Leo Babauta at http://mnmlist.com/wash-your-bowl/ inferred from this story was both profound and completely different from what I realised whilst reading it. I hope you see something different too, this story is really simple and really big at the same time – which is what minimalism is all about.
The concept of cleaning your bowl once you are done eating is probably obvious – you just bung it in the dishwasher or dump it on the side then wait until you have enough dishes to wash to necessitate the cost of a sink full of water, right? Leo Babauta took different wisdom from this – that there is a sense of immediacy in the words that causes you to feel like you need to wash your bowl this very minute. So he does. He hand washes his clothes once they’re dirty then hangs them up to dry. I thought it could also have a wider meaning – that applies to the work that I need to do to clear my house – a lot of the things I’m keeping hold of are things that I’m done eating with. They’ve had their day. By holding on to all this crap in my house, I’m not washing my bowl. And all the dishes are piling up and festering in my soul and suddenly I don’t have enough spoons.
One of my favourite sayings has always been “expand and simplify.”
Basically, it started from Year 9 maths (don’t worry if you can’t follow this paragraph), with the quadratic equations, where you had to expand the equation then simplify it, and suddenly this horrible mess of brackets and letters became an even more horrible mess of x- to the two and minus y and numbers. It looked like a child had sneezed on an alphanumeric scrabble board. This is especially true at A-level when you get more than two sets of brackets, such as (x + 3) (x+2) (6x + x). That expands out to: (x squared + 3x plus 2x + 6) (6x + x) then becomes 6x cubed + 18x squared + 12x squared + 36x + x cubed + 3x squared + 2x squared plus 6x. What a mess! But once you start grouping items together and combining signs and working with what you’ve got, you suddenly get something really simple; in the case of the example above, 7x cubed + 35x squared + 42x.
When I started to tackle the mess it seemed like it had gotten worse – I am about one third of the way through my book clearance plan, which has so far unearthed about 250 books that are all unwanted.
That’s about 50% of the 500 books I’ve assessed so far. One in two of the books I’ve checked weren’t worth keeping. What it meant, though, is that I had displaced books all over my living room that needed to be removed from the house. They are mostly gone now, but a few stragglers are left over (my OH insists that he knows people who want them). My car was full of DVDs to sell at CEX for the same reason. Now it’s empty again. This is what I mean by expanding and simplifying. You get the stuff out to assess it, and it expands. Then you pare out what you don’t want, separating it from the things you are keeping, then you return the things you are keeping to their permanent home. Then you remove the other stuff from your house.
However, in order to simplify, you need to be able to decide what is important to you right now – not what was important ten or twenty years ago. Except for anything tax related (keep that). The bowl was important whilst you were hungry – perhaps you imagined it filled with tasty food. The bowl was important whilst you prepared the food, as well, and it had a significant role to play in the eating. But it is not a living thing. You are not doing it a disservice by cleaning it. You don’t need to keep all those bits of stuck-on food to remind you of the meal you had.
I found this train of thought very helpful while I was trying to clear out my sentimental pieces – those things you keep because they are “keepsakes” or they “were your grandmother’s” (who you never met) or because they mark what society tells us is a significant turning point in life, such as the 21st birthday. I got rid of things in all of those categories, so that my keepsakes were things I genuinely wanted to keep, because I was happy to see them and they reminded me of things I had done that I’d forgotten about and liked remembering. The only exception to this was my grandmother’s funeral card, because it’s the only photo of her that I have.
Speaking of photos, I also got rid of photos and cut down old calendars.
This was a lot easier than I expected. For a lot of them, if the quality was ok, I saved time and snapped them with my phone (I took a photo of a photo), because scanning is a bit of a faff and takes longer than phone photography for a fairly similar result. A lot of photos didn’t even get immortalised with a phone photo, I just chucked them out, because they were unimportant. They were the dried-on porridge that was caked around my bowl, and it was difficult to see where the porridge ended and the bowl began.
I still have some way to go, but a good example of how this helped me is that I had a giant pink plastic box with all my best stuff in it. I was originally clearing the rest of the house to make room for its contents to finally come out. Imagine my surprise when I started clearing it, only to discover that my 70 litre box of what I thought was my most important possessions turned out to be full of mouldy porridge, with a decent spoon inside (the three things from the box that I ended up keeping). I’m glad I started questioning everything. I’m glad I stopped assuming that mouldy porridge was part of the bowl. Because, even though our house got quite messy this week, we got it clean and tidy in under 2 hours yesterday ready for a house party, because we’re no longer trying to polish bits of old porridge (or deluding ourselves into thinking the porridge is the bowl).
On an even deeper level, I want to travel and experience new things. How can I experience anything new if my bowl is already so full that I can’t fit any new experiences into it, even just to eat them?
Have you cleaned your bowl recently? If it’s looking tatty, start digging at it. There might be a bright shiny bowl under all that old porridge!
This afternoon, I was going through a box of accessories that I found in the bottom of my wardrobe.
The majority of it was shoeboxes that either did or did not contain the correct style and quantity of shoes. That has now been sorted, and the bottom of my wardrobe is eagerly awaiting all the right boxes of shoes going back into it later today.
In one shoebox, I found loads of costume jewellery and pieces of jewellery that I’d made (I make jewellery) along with one or two “real” pieces that were made of gold. In amongst it all was a box from F Hinds that I bought in late 2012. It was supposed to contain a 9 carat gold bangle that I only ever wore the once. I always kept it very carefully put away ready for special occasions. I took it out to have a look at it. It’s been stored in its original box all this time.
As you can see from this photo, it’s got a huge green glob of corrosion on it. What you can’t see are the additional splodges that almost look like grease spots on the surface of the gold, which are all over the bangle.
Let’s just think about this for a minute. If treated correctly, hollow gold, solid gold, even gold plate and rolled gold (and gold fill) should all be able to last a lifetime.
I bought a couple of Gold Fill bracelets from China at the same time as this bangle, and I also bought a gold plated watch. Guess what? The Gold Fill and the gold plate are both still in perfect condition. All I can see from the evidence in front of me is that F Hinds must be making inferior jewellery. To the mass produced Chinese stuff. Whuuut??
I feel very shocked and let down that a reputable high street jeweller is making and selling jewellery of such poor quality (and let’s face it, they don’t sell it at Argos prices). You think you’re going to get something of higher quality from them because of the price of their items and the fact they have a fancy high street storefront. Sadly, because they only have a 12 month guarantee on their items, and I’ve only just discovered the problem, they won’t refund, exchange or even give me store credit.
Just to make absolutely certain that this wasn’t a gold chloride compound (God only knows where the chlorine would have come from when it’s been in a box in a box unless there’s chlorine emissions from the packaging they sell it in), I decided to heat the bracelet gently on the stove. This should decompose gold chloride back to solid gold and chlorine gas (making it look as good as new). I heated it for about three minutes then allowed it to cool. I took photos during and after the process.
It didn’t change, and there was definitely no chlorine smell, which would have been a key sign that any reaction was taking place.
I have a silver ring which I bought from H Samuel in 2007 that hasn’t got one single speck of corrosion on it, and silver is supposed to tarnish more quickly than gold. If you remember anything from school chemistry, you should know that gold is less reactive than silver, because gold is almost completely unreactive. If you buried a lump of gold in the ground, it should look the exact damn same in 1000 years’ time. There is a litany of evidence of this actually happening. The gold in the pyramids of Egypt are about 4,000 years old and they have plenty of gold in them, in perfect condition. It’s not a fluke, either. As an archaeology graduate and a chemistry-specialist science teacher, I actually cannot believe that anyone has managed to make a gold that corrodes. This gold was hallmarked and therefore should not have corroded like this.
I can’t say all their jewellery will be the same. Perhaps my bracelet just had a manufacturing defect, but if this is the case it should have a guarantee period that allows time for the defect to become apparent, because corrosion to a metal doesn’t happen overnight (unless you dunk it in aqua regia). Even though it’s an alloy (because it’s 9 carat not 24 carat) it should not corrode like this. I feel like I’ve lost something that was special to me. What I will say, however, is that I’m really REALLY glad I didn’t buy my wedding ring from them – their diamonds are only guaranteed for 2 years and their other jewellery is only guaranteed for 12 months. So I’m going to take my custom elsewhere in the future because I am totally unwilling to pay over the odds for jewellery that’s designed to fail after 12 months, and I don’t feel I can trust them now. That bracelet cost a lot of money.
I never in a million years thought that jewellery could be part of the Planned Obsolescence manufacturing movement.
On a brighter note, I have managed to downsize my jewellery (mostly costume anyway) to only contain the things that fit into my jewellery box, with everything else separated into “throw or donate” piles, and the things that I no longer want will be donated to charity shops. As for the rolled gold bracelet, I will give it to the PDSA charity shop (they help pets who need vets), in the hope that someone will see its condition and pay a reasonable price for it, and it will probably make them very happy to own, whilst also giving valuable funds to a charity that helps animals.
We also got rid of 180 books yesterday along with four bags of clothing that were the culmination of my book downsizing project over the last few weeks – I’ve been reading the first 10 pages of every book in the house to decide whether to keep it or not, after I’d taken as many as I could be sure of to the charity shop (about 100 that I knew I didn’t need to check, they just left the house). This generated about 230 books to get rid of. We had a book sale last Saturday to get rid of any to people who might want them, and have gotten rid of the remainder yesterday, leaving us with a few that people are going to pick up at some point in the near future. If they aren’t collected within 7 days, we are donating them as well (but there’s only about 50 waiting now).
The difference on the bookshelves is profound. There’s now room for all of our books on the ceiling bookshelves, so we can either get rid of the rest of our bookcases or put different things on them, such as any number of displaced objects that don’t have a home because they never got given a place when we moved in. *saddest face*
Another thing I did this week was to finally go through the socks and panties and downsize from the big tub to these two small baskets, one for socks, one for panties. I know my previous post on this topic was from a travel angle, but when I think that nomads manage to live with their travel packing 365 days of the year, I think I can probably cross apply the panty-sock thoughts to my actual daily life. If I’ve made a terrible mistake I’ll be streaking starkers to Marks and Sparks for a new set of undies any day now…
It turns out you need far less than I had (who didn’t see that coming), and I’ve now got about two weeks’ supply of both, while still keeping variety (e.g. tights, stockings, socks) because I don’t want to wear everything that I have in a precise rotation of clothing (that’s way too prescriptive for me), I simply wanted a functional set of objects that had me covered for every type of clothing that I own. Now I just need to get into the habit of doing the laundry more regularly. Having said that, a lot of the stuff I threw out was things I haven’t worn in a long time, or I balk at the idea of wearing if I ever pull it out, so I think I’ve probably been wearing exactly what I’ve kept anyway, so it might not affect my laundry-doing habits.
I’m going to go and put the washing machine on now.
How I chose which books to get rid of and holding a book sale.
So I worked out (between starting a new full time job and running a house and falling asleep in Italian class) how to assess the books.
I took a set of about five books (I started with one bookshelf and just picked up 5 books which were side-by-side). I took them downstairs and poured a cup of tea. I opened one and started reading. If the book was a real page turner, right from the beginning, it was in with a good chance of staying. However, it also had to not be cliched. For example, there was one whose opening chapters appeared reasonably written but it was chucked out because the author was up his own arse about how he’d had the idea to write about a major outbreak of a deadly disease BEFORE IT HAPPENED!!! Only, he was published in 1996, which was clearly slap bang in the middle of the BSE outbreak when everyone in the UK was terrified to eat beef because there had already been cases of CJD, which was the human form of Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis (literally translates to cow sponge brain, which was what it did to them, became known in the common press as Mad Cow Disease). People’s brains were turning to sponge and farmers had to kill entire herds of cows and British Beef was banned around the world for years (even decades, e.g. in the USA). I was in Year 4 in primary school and it was the first time it occurred to me that being vegetarian was a great idea. Of course, there was also the first Ebola outbreak in 1972 (ish) and the first AIDS outbreak in 1980 (ish). Verdict: His book wasn’t original. Had the film Outbreak come out by then? Either way it annoyed me that he was all like “I’m so amazing and original” when he was nothing of the sort. Also his treatment of the subject matter was poor and his characters sucked. I kept books that I lost track of time whilst reading, suddenly realised I’d done more than 10 pages, flowed well or made me feel happy to read. I didn’t keep books that didn’t make sense or used stock turns of phrase, of the sort often used in “Ye Olde Fantassy Bookes (published 1994)” for example. They always turn out to be rubbish. Am I being judgemental? Yes! Otherwise we would end up, say, with 1500 books, some of which are damned awful, many won’t ever get read by us, because otherwise we’re being judgemental and critical of other people’s contributions to the arts!
As I worked through the piles, after thirty or forty books, all of which I’d never read before (but which included some which my husband had read, to check I was working accurately enough), I started to get an instinct within the first paragraph or so as to whether a book was worth keeping, or whether it was making me want to scream “who in their right mind published this?!” There were quite a few, since our library is significantly stacked with sci-fi and fantasy.
I have so far got rid of about five shopping bags full of books which have left the house and are in charity shops waiting for some other poor sucker to purchase them. Additionally, I have four stacking crates of books sitting in the living room waiting to be ejected from the premises, some with less force than others. My husband had the idea of doing a book sale.
I have so far earmarked 240 books for removal, some of which have already left the house, others are waiting in those boxes. Out of over 1500 books, it’s a drop in the ocean but the shelves are looking VISIBLY emptier and since we had boxes of books on the floor that are now on the shelves, this is a pretty big difference.
The cons of a book sale are that we have to put up with huge boxes of displaced books between now and the day we sell them. Since we are waiting until half term (a small school holiday in the UK that lasts one week), I have to wait 12 days to shift these bad boys. Even this isn’t as much of a con as it could be. The obvious advantage of this is that it gives me 12 days to assess more books so there might be a fifth and sixth (and ideally a seventh) box of books to be relocated. That would mean so much more house space!! My books might actually make it onto the ceiling shelves (although they’re looking pretty tidy right now since I downsized them a lot). Then we could get rid of another bookcase and our boxroom’s door might actually be able to close (there’s currently a bookcase in the way).
The pros are that we a) get some money for our books and b) get to rehome our best unwanted books (especially duplicates, of which he had an entire box full and I had one book duplicate that turned out to be a false alarm because the compendium that should have contained it actually did not). This is good because we have a lot of first editions and out of print books ready to go to new homes and it would certainly be nice to get some financial return for having hefted them all the way to Bradford and back again. Also the money we have spent on bookshelves, a larger house to fit them in, extra petrol when transporting them (due to weight) etc.
I am still working on minimalising other areas of our life. This week I also downsized the cleaning products by removing one full carrier bag of unwanted cleaning products, many of which came with the house – the previous owners dealt with all their unwanted stuff by leaving it behind, which left us with loads of crap in the garden too. This is very illegal but we couldn’t be bothered with it at the time of purchase so we left it. Now that they’re using our address to sign up for junk mail (with their names on) I really wish we’d fought the junk at the time. I also took a load of that garden junk to my friend’s house, because she’s just had a new kitchen put in and had hired a giant skip to get rid of her old kitchen, then it turned out there was loads of room in it for other things, and she only lives on the next street to me. I also took the defunct electricals to the tip (ours is a recycling centre) along with a car load of other stuff:
On Saturday, I plan to downsize my stuff some more by taking on my underwear bucket (I keep all my socks and smalls in one of those floppy plastic buckets that are for storage and archaeological trench bail-outs). In Saturday’s article, I will be attempting to address the question: “How much/many underwear and socks do you need, anyway?”
How much are those first editions REALLY worth??
Or, how I decluttered some of my bookcases (because it’s DEFINITELY not been minimalised yet).
I wanted to leave this until last because it’s going to be the hardest part of the whole minimalism thing, but I have briefly forayed into it today. We have both brought books into this relationship (I came with two entire boxes – and now I have an actual bookcase of books, although it’s also filled with comics and so many sideways stacks wherever there is space. My husband had over 2000 books when I met him and has also acquired more over the course of our relationship). The mere mention of getting rid of the books is enough to put strain on our relationship. But over the last five years I have realised that most of these books don’t get read, and we will probably never read them.
A couple of years ago, we were living in a Gothic Mansion in Bradford. We moved into it from a 2-up-2-down (a Victorian terrace with 2 small downstairs rooms and 2 small upstairs rooms – when I parked my small hatchback out front, the car was longer than the house was wide), and moved out of the Mansion into our current, significantly smaller 3 bedroom house, so, I think the only name for the place in Bradford was Gothic Mansion. It had a sweeping staircase and everything, and cost the same in rent as the 2-up-2-down in York had done.
When we moved out of the Gothic Mansion, we realised just how many belongings we had accumulated over the previous 2 years of living in so much space. When it came time to pack the books, we got rid of about 100 of them – my future husband gave his to other people and I gave mine to charity shops. It was a drop in the ocean. Somehow, when we unpacked at our new house, we still had far too many books. It was shocking. I got my Significant Other to put ceiling shelves up around the top of the two largest bedrooms (we sleep in the smallest because it helps my night terrors significantly), and we filled them with books. We had two full bookcases of books left over, and that was after I got rid of an entire box of books. We gave our other bookcases away to someone who was setting up home and to a community furniture initiative.
I was just about coping with the book situation because we had worked so hard designing and making the ceiling shelves (they look like a book border around each room, it’s awesome). Then my mum died, and I brought another box of books back, which were books I’d grown up with. I actually brought two boxes back but decided to let the second one go before it crossed the threshold of my house – it was all my Award Reprint Famous Five books, which I’ve by and large replaced with a beautiful collection of First Edition Famous Five books. I decided the Awards would be better served living with someone else where they would actually get read.
Suddenly, though, we are drowning under items, books especially, and I have to make some very hard decisions about books. The thing is, and the big reason that I haven’t addressed it, is because I feel it’s very unfair for me to have to get rid of some of my one bookcase of books when my OH has about five times that many books. Inherently, I am biased towards thinking that my books are better, because I chose quality over quantity. I’ve fallen into the trap of that excuse my pupils come out with sometimes: “Ben is setting his EYEBROWS on fire, why am I getting a detention for SMOKING??” Obviously, just because someone nearby is doing something worse than me, that doesn’t make my behaviour okay. Another problem is that I am keeping more than half of my books for children. If I have any, or if any close friends do, I’m going to be ready to give them books to read. Unfortunately, that time hasn’t come yet. The third problem is that I have a lot of first editions – I very carefully collected them all, and they’re all great books. Because it all seems so complicated, I am trying to be very deliberate and careful in my decisions.
So I decided to throw caution to the wind and do the following:
1. Fill a box with the books I’m keeping for kids.
2. Fill a box with the books I’m keeping for myself.
3. Fill a box with all the duplicates we’ve got that belong to me (then hash it out with my OH about whose copy of each duplicate we are keeping/getting rid of. This will be hard because we both have an entire collection of Terry Pratchetts each, and I think we’re both very reluctant to downsize because they mean so much to each of us and what if we both wanted to read them at the same time????). I can’t decide whether duplicates in a foreign language count, since they clearly serve a purpose beyond the story content of the original (I have a few duplicates in French and English because I find it a great way to help immersively learn a language).
One idea I particularly liked was “if I keep it, is it worth the two (or more) books that I must get rid of when I put this one on the shelf?” (https://unclutterer.com/2007/06/25/read-a-book-and-pass-it-on/). It inspired me to take this further and order my books in a sort of preference. Kind of like book trumps. Which books would I never get rid of another book to keep? Which books would I get rid of any other book to keep? I think this could become a game. Once I’ve boxed all the books up, I am going to do this when I put them back on the shelves – starting with ten of the ones I know are least important, and every time I add a book to the shelf, taking another one off (if there comes a point where I can’t take any more books off the shelf, that’s ten books worth keeping, so I will start again with another set of ten books and do the same). To avoid sample bias, I will need to re-check the shelf afterwards.
90 Minutes Later
That was hard. There was a huge and ginormous problem with my method outlined above – it assumed I had some boxes to put books in. I didn’t. All our packing boxes left over from when we moved house? They’re all full of books from various times when we’ve had to move a set of books to do something or get at something else. All I could find was a shoebox and a box of crisps (now empty). I filled the shoebox with cast offs, until it got full, then I filled the crisp box, until it got full, then I filled the shoebox with the 10 books I would keep if the house was on fire or I was a refugee or something. The books I’d put in a campervan if I took one to places.
There was also a set of books I’d been keeping for their value. I decided to challenge myself on this in case I was holding them for flawed reasons. I looked them up on AbeBooks today to find out how much they’d grown in value:
Jo’s Boys (Louisa May Alcott) – 1886 edition. Worth about £5. Plenty of copies about. Passed down in my family for generations, just inherited from my mother, so not getting rid of it that easily!
School Friend Annual 1955 and Pets Annual 1959 – Worth £5 and 0.66p respectively. Still keeping because they were my grandmas (on my dads side) and again I inherited.
I think the School Friends and Jo’s Boys are my sentimental books. There were other books in both my mother’s and grandmother’s houses that I got, but these are the ones I would have great difficulty getting rid of. The School Friend annuals really sum up the culture and world my grandma lived in and grew up in, and Jo’s Boys is very reminiscent as a glossing-over of my own childhood, which could generously be described as “Old Fashioned” (and un-generously as Draconian).
Artemis Fowl – the Opal Deception. Worth £2.
Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony. Worth £2.
Artemis Fowl. Worth £2.
Artemis Fowl – the Arctic Incident. Worth £2.
Artemis Fowl and The Time Paradox. Worth £3.
Terry Pratchetts – worth £2 (very fine condition hardcover series books) to £8 (Hogfather Screenplay) to £10 (The Last Hero Hardcover) to £25-35 (The Art Of Discworld) to £35 (A Blink Of the Screen).
Anthony Horowitz: Necropolis. Worth 0.66p.
Anthony Horowitz: Snakehead. Worth £4.26.
Diana Wynne Jones: The Game. Worth about £10.
Diana Wynne Jones: Reflections. Worth about £10.
JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Worth £5 (children) to £6 (adult), I have one copy of each.
JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Worth £1. LOLOLOLOL. Seriously £1.
JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Worth £5 (children or adult). I have one copy of the children’s edition.
Agatha Christie: Around £2.50 each. As paperbacks that take up 1/3 of the space of the hardback first edition books, I am more willing to keep these on the shelves. Also I inherited them off my recently-deceased mum who inherited them from my grandma. That shizzle needs time to settle.
I valued my Famous Five red hardbacks at about 66p each. That is fine though – I am keeping my Enid Blytons for sentimental value.
**UPDATE (9pm same day): Tales of Beedle The Bard by JK Rowling? Worth 0.66p. It’s so getting ditched (the story wasn’t that great anyway).**
I should probably ditch the Artemis Fowl novels and the Harry Potter, since the Order Of The Phoenix was my second least favourite book and film and I think the Artemis Fowls have sadly had their day, been and gone. I guess they got over printed. The only Artemis Fowl worth over £3 is the only one I don’t have, because I couldn’t obtain a copy at the time and decided it would probably never be worth anything. Oh the irony. I guess this is the false economy of buying books – I always think getting the hardback first edition is better but I guess it really isn’t because they don’t hold their value as well as you would expect. HOWEVER, the value of the book cannot be judged by price alone, as I have demonstrated with the number of books I am keeping for sentimental reasons. Having said that, the prices are what they’re being sold at and I always think with anything under £3 that you have to work out how rapidly they’re actually selling at that price point, because that could just be what people hope to get for them, and there’s not a lot of price-slash wriggle room to get them shifted and it’s no indication about whether they would sell if I listed them on Amazon for that amount, taking up space in my house while I waited for them to be bought.
That’s my first round of book culling pretty much finished, just a few stragglers to round up from other parts of the house because they don’t fit in my bookcase. I will, of course, have more to do but not right now because I found it very difficult to get rid of a lot of books that I probably don’t need. Also I was very hindered by the rabbits, in whose room my books live, as the books must stay out of their reach otherwise the bunnies will nibble the books, which would be sad. I was comforted by the number of minimalists and de-clutterers who had encountered the same emotional difficulty when parting with their books. I know I can read them online, I know I can go to the library, but it’s not the same as seeing them on the shelf.
Before I try and cull them again I think I need to change strategy. Perhaps putting my “safe” books in a separate room, then sorting the remainder in order of… something. I don’t know. Some of them are useful but not essential. Some of them could be useful in the future. Some of them were 10p and the text might not be available at the same price again.
My OH’s books, by contrast, include a great deal of impersonal and generic sci-fi and fantasy (I love love LOVE sci fi and fantasy when it’s good – but you wouldn’t actually believe how much dross there is. Time Snake and Superclown? There’s a reason you haven’t heard of it), and I’ve got a plan to get rid of some of these – I’m going to read them. Yep. I’m going to open each book and try to read it. If it’s boring, unreadable, overly-pretentious or full of “Said He”-isms, it’s getting queued for removal from the house. No second chances. My OH has given me permission to do this as long as he gets veto power over the books I’ve discarded before they get chucked. I think of it as a secretarial service – I’m filtering the junk mail so the Boss can spend more time on the important letters. I don’t think any of those are worth anything because they’re all a bit crap – he was given about 700 books about 15 years ago by a “friend” who was moving away and needed to get rid of his books.