Tuesday, July 26, 2011

shelf exam

I've only ever watched, like, two episodes of "Hoarders," but it's enough to make me feel 

1.) Vaguely reassured, that, despite my packrat tendencies, I'm not that bad (did you see the one with the lady that had two dried up dead cats under her rubble heap of trash?  Like cat jerky they were, good lord).  Also

2.) Slightly uneasy about my own clutter, to the point that, after I watched the last episode, I just started throwing things away to make myself feel better.

One thing that I've never been able to get rid of--even though we've moved five times (yes) since I started med school--is my books.  I am unnaturally attached to the books.  I have purged many of our other possessions, some of which would seem to have more sentimental value (Cal and Mack's old baby clothes went to Goodwill with the last move, for example--they were adorable and teeming with cuddly memories, but there's only so many outgrown onesies flopping around in boxes that I can abide) thought when it comes to my books, I have repeatedly put my foot down against giving any away.  Because you can tell a lot about people by their books.

We used to have them somewhat categorized on separate shelves (all our medical books were clustered together in our workspace, for example), but at this point the fact of unpacking them seemed like feat enough, so everything is all jumbled together in a hodgepodge.  Highbrow, lowbrow, and everything in between. 

Evidence that I don't just recommend books willy-nilly.  My own copy of Michael Ruhlman's "Walk on Water" has damn near been read to tatters, obviously.  (I used to have the unfortunate habit of reading in the bathtub, which no doubt accelerated the process.)  So you can see why I basically had to resuscitate myself when I heard he wrote a blurb for my book.

I went through I period in college where I read a lot of plays.  I also went through a period in college where I got used texts from the college bookstore for classes that I wasn't taking because I thought it would broaden my horizons or whatever.  (Nerd.)

And then when I was in med school I got a book of pictures of 1000 olde timey tattoos, just the right size to keep in the bathroom on top of the toilet.  Highbrow, lowbrow.

Ophthalmologists have the best words for Scrabble.

These EC comics were a Christmas gift from my parents.  Somewhere, possibly still in a box, is a complete box set of "Crime Suspense Stories," "Weird Science," and "Weird Science Fantasy."  A healthy proportion of the books on my bookshelf are actually comics or graphic novels, a fact that perplexes my mother-in-law a great deal.

I still have a handful of author copies for my own book lying around.  It seems weird to have them out but I literally don't have anywhere else good to put them.  But they're on a very low shelf, at least, so less visible, thereby making me a little bit less like Richard Dreyfus in "What About Bob?".

(I said a little bit.)


  1. I come to provide reassurance that you are not alone in the book hoarding! My husband and I have moved 8 times since we got married 7 years ago - including me moving to the UK, us moving to Ireland together and then us moving to Canada together - and we can't get rid of our books. We accumulate them like crazy as well. So it is a never ending problem. Granted, my husband is an academic and I work in health research, so books are kind of our business, but still. Gah! We are probably going to be moving again in a year or two (the life of a young academic...), so who knows...

  2. Mingle9:25 PM

    Is there any way you can give your fans a list of your favorite non-medicine related books of all time, pretty please? :D

  3. Anonymous9:44 PM

    I thought I was the only person who read in the bathtub! Quite a few books have fallen victim to the effects of that luxury...

  4. Yep, my mom has always been this way with her books. I have only recently abandoned some of my book hoarding ways by selling some of my college textbooks on Amazon. Even the beautiful science textbooks I purchased new and REFUSED to highlight in (that I know will be swiftly outdated and irrelevant in a few years.)

    I am a long time reader, but for some reason, I have lazily neglected to add your blog to my bookmarks. Today I visited your blog, but first neglected to type the BLOGSPOT into the address. The resulting web site? Pretty comical.

  5. Because I am a big, big nerd, I want to know why you have a copy of Numerical Recipes in Pascal, and Mathematical Methods. I learned Pascal in college and haven't used it since (and I'm a software engineer).

  6. Anonymous10:32 PM

    Wow. You have a copy of Arfken AND Numerical Recipes on your shelf?!?

    If I weren't already taken...

  7. Ah, Arfken! I know you're a little younger than I am but this proves it: mine has no Weber on it. My Numerical Recipes is in C and my husband's is in...Fortran, I think.

  8. Anonymous7:56 AM

    I think everyone has a collection that is difficult to part with. I use to hold on to books for dear life, but over the many moves along my military career I let many go. I keep the ones that mean to most to me and every reference book that I have ever collected, but novels I let go.

    I agree that what books a person owns can tell you a lot about a person. When I go to someone's for the first time I look at photos displayed and the books that are on the shelfs. You gotta have a good mix of of trash to balance out the high brow readings.

  9. The computer programming books and math books are Joe's. Sorry to disappoint, folks. Like our finances and our gene pool, our books started out separate but are now intermingled.

  10. Same problem with book hoarding & running out of space now! Hence am switching to e-books. I still like the "feel" of a "real" book, but then, my book shelves are shouting for mercy....

  11. I LOVE What About Bob. Most under-appreciated movie ever! I met three die hard WAB fans at an airport in Alaska. They were wearing blue shirts with yellow writing that said, "DON'T HASSLE ME I'M LOCAL." HA! & eww about that lady on Hoarders... TWO dead cats, I mean COME ON!

  12. Sarah6:33 PM

    On a sort of related note, I liked the write up on your book in the current issue of Wellesley's magazine.

  13. Lots of books here. Don't want to get rid of any. But is this a problem? Not to me!

  14. Quite agree with the attachment to books! I also feel you can tell a lot about a person by their books.

    Also, one of the best movies of all time. Excellent reference.

  15. I love watching Hoarders to get inspiration to clean up

  16. catcrazy7311:59 PM

    Glad to see my best friend and I aren't the only ones with eclectic collections of books hanging around...and I'd have many more if I hadn't moved three times in a year around 2005. And I must say, yours is one of the best I've read in the last year or so.

  17. Anonymous5:41 AM

    My favorite hoarders (or the most disturbing) was the one where the lady slept strapped into her potty chair and threw soiled diapers in the pantry.

    I don't know why I find it so facinating.

  18. Anonymous6:03 AM

    It's not really cool that an MD is joining in the "ooh" and "aah" reaction to Hoarders without some acknowledgement that these people shown on the TV show are actually patients. Hoarding is associated with schizophrenia, OCD and brain injury. It's a psychiatric disorder, not a joke. They're suffering.

  19. Very nice, thanks for sharing.