Reading Material Overkill

Raise your hand if you’ve ever subscribed to more magazines you can read.  Now, raise your other hand if you refuse to discard unread magazines because you “might” get around to reading them later.

I may have inherited this tendency.  It appears to be in the bloodline.

Presently, most of the unread copies of The New Yorker, The New York Review Of Books and others are in cardboard boxes, to prevent my 391 square foot studio from getting cluttered.  Sadly, that’s also the easiest way to hang onto magazines and forget you have them.

A new policy has been enacted.  Yeah, besides putting renewals on hold (which I have).  Once each day, I force myself to read at least one article in a magazine, then remove the address label and put the magazine into the recycling bin.  There are a few comic books in the collection, and after those are read they’ll be left in a place where a child or parent can find them.  We have a “no littering” rule in my building, but we’re given the impression that an exception is made for reading material which appeals to kids.  That’s what I like to think, anyway.

Oh, hell.  Even if an exception isn’t made, those My Little Pony comic books aren’t going to land in the bin after one adult has read them. That would be WRONG.

Now for the worst confession…

I hoard books, too.  And those plastic food containers with snap-on plastic lids.  The excuse for saving the containers is they might be needed to replace the toilet after a natural disaster, such as an earthquake.

The book hoarding isn’t all bad.  Most of them are in numbered boxes, and catalogued.  When I decide to read one of them, I just refer to the list and open the box in question.  At least half the time, the book really is in that box.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

Actually, the main reason I’m typing this post is I’d like to know if any of you have experience with the international book tracking system at

I’ve registered with Book Crossing, and I’m on the verge of releasing my first used book into the wild.  You can look at their website to learn how the system works.  If you’ve participated, please leave a note in the comment section.

With the human element being what it is, some people who find registered books won’t follow through with their share of the tracking responsibility.  Some will, though, and let’s hope some of those books are read.

There are different options for books you don’t keep.  Some can be resold or traded, others donated or given to friends.  I live within walking distance of thrift stores and a public library, so donating is easy.

Note: If you’re considering donating magazines or comic books, ask ahead of time.  Some nonprofits can handle them, others can’t.

A little more than six years ago, I went through the shattering experience of having most of my books hauled away to a landfill.  I was living in a building where a neighbor’s bedbug infestation had spread, and only a small percentage of books could go into sealed plastic bags and set aside before the pest control company could treat the apartment.  The technicians needed more space than I could provide with a complete library.

The books which were sealed could be salvaged.  When they were unwrapped much later, there was no indication that the insects had gotten to them.  I felt as if I’d been reunited with long lost friends. Never underestimate the value of Books Without Bugs.

At the time, I thought I had learned my lesson on book hoarding. Having to part with that many books made me wish I hadn’t bought them in the first place, and I knew I’d never make that mistake again.

In complete honesty, I don’t buy as many books as I used to.  The current collection is excessive, but the pre-bedbug library was bonkers.  There’s an important distinction between excessive and bonkers.  Personally, I don’t know the distinction, but can assure you that after more than five years in my current home there’s still plenty of free space.  When you have only 391 square feet, that’s saying something.

It’s wise to maintain perspective.  If a hoarder mentality gives you plastic containers (with lids!) to use as toilets after the next big earthquake, you can’t denounce the whole thing.

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