I used to think there was no such thing as having too many books. If someone were to suggest I might have a book-hoarding problem, I would burst into tears and run to the bookstore to buy another one–just to make myself feel better. But these days, there are hundreds, no, thousands of books in our house: layered on shelves, stacked into piles. If it weren’t for the Amazon boxes that arrive on a regular basis, I’d swear the tomes were getting busy and birthing booklets. It’s time to thin the herd.
It was easy enough cleaning out the kids’ shelves. Aside from some sentimental treasures, I pulled most of the books they’d outgrown to donate to my friend’s service organization, Books Between Kids. (Houston friends, they’re always in need of books for young readers.) Going through mine was going to be a longer and more emotional process, so I decided to procrastinate by culling the most obvious collection–cookbooks. I have more than two dozen cookbooks and at least as many cooking magazines. Assuming each book contains 300 recipes and each magazine has 50, I have at least 8,400 possible concoctions on my shelf. That means I could follow one every day for the next twenty-three years and never repeat a meal. “What a great idea!” said no one ever.
There are a few I couldn’t get rid of, including the copy of Nourish my friend Terri just sent me during her stay at Canyon Ranch; my maternal grandmother’s Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, in which she’d noted her favorites; and all the copies of Clean Eating magazine, where I’d been a contributing editor. I kept the booklet my host mother had written for me longhand when I lived with them in Bourges, France in 1987, and the cookbook for young people my aunt gave me when I was about ten. Oh but I love the crock pot recipes in The Ultimate Slow Cooker Cookbook and the high-protein options in Muscle Meals. Rachael Ray and Nigella Lawson (whose awful husband has just filed for divorce)–how could I get rid of them? Then there’s Green Beans and Guacamole, given to me by a good friend, and the Soup Bible, the twin of the copy I bought for a long-distance friend so we could cook “together.”
OK, so in the end I got rid of only one: The Mom and Me cookbook that my kids outgrew before we ever used it. I feel terrible that I couldn’t let go of more of them. So terrible, in fact, that I think I’m going to the bookstore to buy another one, just to make myself feel better.