The Books I Need

After what’s felt like a long, cold winter, I’m packing up my house, getting ready to move. I can’t bear the cold in my Central California mountain village. Since I grew up in northern Ontario, I know this is baby cold. I must have thin, runny blood since moving to California.

Moving means taking a look at the books I need in my life. I’m a fast reader and go through books way too fast. I’m always scrounging for something to read. Some of my books I want to keep, but which ones?

I mostly read fiction when I read actual books. I read nonfiction online, not that that makes a lot of sense. Since I write crime fiction, the fiction I read is—no surprise—crime fiction. But I’ve collected paperback and hard-bound reference books on police procedure, police science, and forensics. Those I keep.

I keep all the hardbound Margaret Atwood novels and the John Updike’s and the John Sanfords.

Most crime fiction novels I read once. Some of them I read all the way through and enjoy. Those I pass on to my mystery reader pals at Sisters in Crime Bakersfield meetings. They pass on books to me and these have collected in the six book shelves I have throughout my house. I go to writers conferences and there are always books available and books for sale.

I’m looking at those six book shelves now. The real estate person gave me that look that suggested I just might have hoarding tendencies. She says most of the books have to go.

This hurts. Naturally I’m not going to throw out the dictionary my parents bought me when I went away to university, or the Norton Anthology I used in my first English classes. This is where sentiment and nostalgia creeps in and I must suppress it ruthlessly. I don’t dare to go through the boxes of photos because of the avalanche of emotion.

When I was young and foolish I thought that having books on my shelves said that I was smart. I don’t care anymore whether people think I’m smart and that’s a freedom to put books in other people’s hands who will appreciate them now.

Some are going to the English teacher at the nearby correctional institute. Lots of inmates can’t read and using these books as teaching material makes me feel good about giving them away. Our nearest library is 18 miles away. Some will go to the Friends of the Library Sale.

I’m finally giving up my Guide to Literary Agents 2005. Some books don’t have any value to anyone.


Check out my newest eBook on Finishing Your First Mystery for tips to anyone having trouble completing your fiction manuscript.


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