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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How Many Books? by Andy Scheer

The question came innocently. So innocently, the person didn't even ask about books. But I couldn't help making the application.

This weekend I watched on DVD a delightfully quirky BBC mystery program from the late 1980s. Called The Beiderbecke Tapes, the story concerned a a middle-aged schoolteacher—a fan of early jazz—who mistakenly receives a cassette tape (remember those) that instead of 1920s music contained top-secret information.

For various plot reasons, early in the story the jazz fan moves out of his flat and takes up residence with an English teacher from the same school. After he brings in box after box of jazz records, then tapes, she expressed astonishment—and asked how many records he owned.

The question took him aback. He had no idea. Hundreds, he said, maybe a thousand. Perhaps even two thousand.

I looked away from the TV and scanned the walls of my basement. Then I began tallying bookshelves. Counting each horizontal shelf (not each shelving unit) I came up with fifty. Their average length is about two feet. And they're comfortably stuffed.

How many books? I have no idea. Hundreds, maybe a thousand. Perhaps even two thousand.

But why count them? Those are only the books in the basement.

How about you?


Cheryl said...

Oh, I could barely guess at this point. On one of my Kindles I have close to 300 books. The other Kindle, has 50 or so now that I'm using the new one. Between our mish-mash of bookshelves-twelve at last count--in various sizes, sometimes loaded two deep and sinking in the middle, I would definitely say more than a thousand books. I can't even think about what's in the basement or tucked into closets.

Davalyn Spencer said...

My husband is a brave man. By trade, he was a rodeo bullfighter for several years, and then a cop. But the other day he walked into my office and said, "Why don't you get rid of some of these books. You've read them all."

He's still alive, but wiser now. Bulls and bullets may be challenging, but the importance of a wife's beloved books is nothing to mess around with.

Joanne Sher said...

We have a library in our house. In that room alone? Eight bookcases, most of them between six and seven feet tall. All full. Plus books on the floor, four more bookcases in the living room (also full), and more in the kids' rooms, and on top of my headboard.

I'm not even gonna guess what that adds up to. But A LOT.

Kathryn Elliott said...

Our small entryway contains floor to ceiling shelves with approximately 800 books. What amuses me most is their arrangement. Top 5 shelves; classics left to me by my late grandfather, cookbooks (which I hoard) and stories I’ve worn thin with re-reads and cannot part with. Bottom three shelves; anything Dr. Seuss ever wrote, seven books about “the big boy potty” and enough pop-up books to blanket China.

Katherine Hyde said...

We have bookshelves in every room and hallway of the house (except the bathrooms, and they usually have odd stacks). The living room, office, and bedrooms have multiple bookcases. I once added up how many feet total, but I've forgotten the number now. Anyway, the number of books is constantly growing, so why bother?

Rick Barry said...

I enjoyed these heart-warming answers. Someday people will describe their book collection by the amount of memory used in their electronic devices, but for now I still have an affinity for real paper and real ink.

Andy Scheer said...

I've yet to hear what people with only an electronic version of a book do at an author event. Perhaps they bring an engraving tool so the author can "sign" their Nook?

Joe Lalonde said...

Oh wow, between my wife and myself I have no idea. I have an overflowing bookshelf in our living room with books in stacks on the floor. My wife has a room dedicated to her books. Plus a couple of boxes stuffed into the basement.

Linda Glaz said...

Oh yeah, enough books to keep my allergies going for years. My husband can't part with any of them, so I pop a claritin each night and deal with it...