Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Tricky Question of Whether Keeping Hold of Books Is Bad for Your Mental Health; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Tricky Question of Whether Keeping Hold of Books Is Bad for Your Mental Health; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Keith Hann

YOU can tell a lot about a person from the books they read, or at any rate own. I have long found craftily scanning the shelves of new acquaintances a reliable way of assessing whether we might be on compatible wavelengths.

But even before the arrival of the Kindle (and remember, other tablet devices are available), books had begun to be banished from the sitting rooms of the fashion conscious.

An estate agent helpfully suggested that it would increase my chances of selling my house if my 4,000-plus volumes were less prominently displayed.

I countered that they might well turn out to be the only things holding up the roof. Shortly afterwards I stopped buying because I realised live to be 250 the ones I took my house off the market.

Then last week, for the first time in 24 years, I decided that the very lived-in look of my study was no longer tolerable, and braced myself to clear it out so that it could receive the attentions of a decorator. As a result I am now completely shattered, while the resulting boxes of displaced books are filling most of the rest of the house.

My whole life unfolded before me as I cleared the shelves. I even found Look & Learn, Dandy and Beano annuals from my childhood. My initial thought was that my two youngsters might appreciate these in a year or two. Then I remembered the habitual violence of 1960s cartoon parents and schoolteachers, and the casual racism of Corporal Clott in Africa, and realised that I could be accused of poisoning their minds to such an extent that they might have to be taken into care.

There were many well-worn classics I clearly remembered reading in my teens and 20s, along with crisp, almost new volumes I longed to have the time to read now. Only in many cases I glanced at the inside back cover, where around 20 years ago I started making a brief note every time I finished a book, and discovered that I had already read it, and promptly forgotten every detail. …

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