Sunday, January 2, 2011


Happy 2011, everyone. So, here we are (already!) in January and as the Christmas tree heads for the curb scattering needles on the way, there’s the annual dusting off of the old familiar New Year’s Resolutions. Okay, just one more chocolate truffle first! Where was I? Oh yes, right up there in the top five on most people’s lists is GET ORGANIZED. It could be that, like quitting smoking, losing two sizes and sticking with an exercise program, this is something that requires a rehab program, a reality show or a personal trainer. Personally, I love it. Wait until January is my mantra as things pile up during the fall. The weather will be rotten and it will be fun to toss unwanted clutter to the four winds. I already have a donation box full and am starting on the second one for 2011. Relatives beware.

However, this love of decluttering does not apply to books. Not even a little bit. The Maffini household is stretched for bookshelves. Entire walls are given over to books. There are To Be Read piles, just finished piles, pass to friends piles, don’t forget to take these upstairs piles, these might look nice on the coffee table piles and more. Much more. With many of our bookshelves overstuffed and no free walls, you see the problem. What to do? In my sad experience, it is much more difficult to get rid of an expensive, seldom worn dressy jacket or even (gulp) a pair of heels than it is to shed a book. Books are for keeping.

Maybe it’s because I know firsthand what goes into writing one. I definitely feel that I am thumbing my nose at the poor beleaguered author who sweated bullets over every chapter. All to say, sliding any book into a donation box actually makes my head and heart hurt. I experience book guilt. Even though I know that there are many good places for the books that were not quite a good fit, the books that deserved another chance to be read and appreciated, the books that needed to find a forever home. Friends and family are prime targets for book relocation. But when they stop taking calls and pretend not to be home, there’s still hope. Many worthwhile organizations use book sales to fund their efforts. For instance, the Friends of Library and Archives Canada has an annual book sale that supports special purchases for the collection and offers a wonderful opportunity to send books on to new adventures. Thank heavens that exists. I have started a box for them already.

But let me make a couple of things clear: there will be no books that are signed by the author in that box. There will be no Canadian mysteries in that box. There will be no books in my favourite series. There will be no books written by friends or colleagues. One must have some principles and stand by them.

And the fact that at the end of September when the annual Friends’ book sale happens, my husband and I will volunteer to help. We will almost certainly each bring home more books than we donated in the first place. But so what? That matters not a bit. It’s not like we rob banks for a hobby. Anyway then my 2011 New Year’s Resolutions will be just a misty memory, and 2012 far enough away to ignore. It will be just the right time to start a few new stacks of books.

So, tell the truth. How do you deal with surplus books? Or do you?

Mary Jane Maffini rides herd on three, soon to be three and a half, mystery series. You can check them out at

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