Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Your home office envisioned as pelagic zones

This is a delightful extended metaphor from The Passive Guy:

As PG performed a tidiness assessment, he realized there are varying zones of tidiness represented in his office. In that respect, PG’s lair represents a creation akin to the layers of an ocean. …

The entry to PG’s office is equivalent to Epipelagic or Sunlight Zone.

As one continues horizontally into the office, one passes through the Bathypelagic (Twilight) Zone and Abyssopelagic Zone (The Abyss). Finally, when the office diver reaches PG’s desk, he/she is fully-immersed in the Hadalpelagic Zone (The Trenches).

As he considered the potential impact of a tidying-up event on his office, PG realized that it would create an ecological disaster of immense proportions.

Love it!

Also, these comments are in response to a post by Jen Sherman at Book Riot, disagreeing with a notion that one should tidy up one’s house by discarding the TBR pile in its entirety and also, I guess, the entire library.

What is it about books that I disagree with? Kondo suggests that the books that you keep to be read eventually will actually never be read, and that the moment you first encounter a book is the moment to read it. If you don’t read it then, you are not going to, so it can be discarded.

She also argues that you are going to reread very few of the books, and you don’t need to keep the physical object after you’ve read it once; the experience of reading the book will stay with you even if you don’t remember everything in the book. You have experienced reading it, the book is a part of you, the physical object has fulfilled its purpose and therefore can be discarded.

My response to the above is:

a) total agreement with the post from Book Riot;

b) total incredulity at Kondo’s suggestions for tidying up;

c) complete bafflement at how ready some people are to assume that everyone in the entire world is just like them.

I see the author in question is Marie Kondo, her method of decluttering is refered to as the Konmari method, and she’s the one who wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which I have in fact heard of.

Well, I can hardly believe Kondo made it to a sufficient stage of adulthood to write a book without having noticed that lots and lots of people do read lots of books years after they get them; and that lots and lots of people do re-read books. Not just a few of their best-loved books, but heaping oodles of all kinds of books. I can also hardly imagine that her editor didn’t say, at some point, “You know, a whole lot of people etc.” Yet here we are, with this prescriptive advice that is so out of touch with the actual experience of, I will go out on a limb here and say, most readers of genre fiction. Certainly many.

Let’s just see. Comment please: do you or do you not read quite a few books years after you acquire them? Do you or do you not re-read quite a lot of books from time to time?

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8 Comments Your home office envisioned as pelagic zones

  1. David H.

    The book was originally written for a Japanese audience (there’s a little section in there for what to do with shrine tokens, for goodness’ sake), and space is limited in Japanese homes/apartments. (I believe I saw Kondo mention that she’ll have to reconsider certain aspects given the different cultures/spaces around the world).

    That said, Kondo isn’t a minimalist. If you’re happy with 500 or 1000 books you haven’t read (they all “spark joy”), she’s happy you’re happy.

    As with all self-help books, I don’t take everything she says as the gospel truth that I need to follow exactly, and books are among that in part.

    That said, I certainly see where Kondo is going from, and I definitely have found myself happier when I read a book I just bought or received because I’m excited about it there-and-then versus being “oh yeah, I bought that book 8 years ago, I really wanted to read it for some reason I can’t remember.”

    And I’ve definitely kept books I know I’ll reread or want to share with others (and I still have 1200 books in my house).

  2. Jo in OKC

    I re-read some books yearly. In 2018, my re-reading list was longer than the maximum number of books she thinks should be in the house (30? 35? I can’t remember).

    There are definitely books that I buy and read much later.

  3. Megan

    I have a huge pile of physical and digital books I haven’t read yet. That said I also read a huge pile of books last year and a good chunk of that was re-reads. Everything from revisiting series I liked that I haven’t read in 15+ years or rereading something I got that was so good I wanted to experience it again after only a month or two. Could I trim it down? Sure. But even if I somehow got rid of everything I didn’t like or wouldn’t re-read, I’d still have way too many books.

  4. Robert

    I gave all books (probably over 1,500) to my daughter. I had read most of them and was unlikely to read them again. While I did enjoy owning them, I didn’t want to drag them from house to house anymore. And I’m not getting any younger, so why not pass them on? All my real favorites that I like to reread I can get digitally now. I rarely read a physical book these days.

    I’m leery of attempting to reread most books that I enjoyed as a teenager since they probably haven’t aged well, and I’d rather keep the pleasant memory. There are exceptions, of course: Tolkien, McKillip, Crowley, Wolfe, etc.

  5. mona

    I don’t generally read books years after buying them; until very recently keeping a physical TBR was unknown to me. I just had a list. But I do reread a lot. There are some years when very few books I read are new to me.

    I haven’t read Kondo’s book, but she has a series on Netflix now, and I’ve watched some of that. (Who watches other people tidying up their stuff? I laughed. But apparently I do.) She’s completely non-judgmental about what people keep. It does sound like she’s not much of a reader though, based on this advice!

  6. Hanneke

    I’ve got about 1 shelf of physical TBR books, that I bought secondhand because they aren’t available as ebooks and I saw a recommendation (mostly here) that looked as if I would like them a lot, and the description corroborated that. Those tend to wait a long time before being read, as I read mostly on my ereader.
    On my ereader I have a lot more, several hundreds probably (counting samples), also generally acquired because of recommendations, but I’ve either not been in the mood for that kind of story yet or I’ve forgotten I have them.

    I am a rereader, and as a youngster I loved discovering new worlds though my parents’ and grandparents’ old books. I remember the joy of finding a whole box of my grandpa’s old paperback Perry Masons and The Saints in their spare room cupboard; and of reading dad’s shelf of juvenile Heinleins for my first taste of SF.

    I have nearly 3000 paper books in the house, and I’m slowly winnowing some of them out. These days I rarely buy books in paper, less than 20 a year (and some of those are gifts). If I think I might wish to reread them at some later point, or if I think some of my younger family members or friends might enjoy reading them later, I’ll keep them.

    My ebook collection has passed the 2500 mark too, and is the one still growing apace. Some (most) months I buy more than I can read (since ebooks are so much cheaper, my bookbuying budget for 5 Dutch books will buy me up to 30 English ebooks each month). There is some overlap with the paper books, and that might lead to eventually purging the paper books unless they are real favorites. Those, I often don’t immediately read in ebook form – I just want to have them available for later rereading.

    The ebooks are also the primary place I try out samples, and Kobo samples I’ve spent time with but didn’t like get thrown out.
    I haven’t got around to any purges of books I didn’t really like from my Calibre elibrary yet. I’ve purged only one that I bought (can’t remember which) from Calibre and Kobo both, that I actively hated and didn’t want to leave lying around for my heirs.
    I don’t expect to have time to go through and delete ebooks any time soon; as they don’t cause clutter and Calibre keeps them neat and findable for me, it’s not a priority.

  7. Rachel

    I don’t expect this to be super common, necessarily, but I personally keep books to re-read even when I think they are just okay, for two reasons: When I get rid of books like that, I often regret it years later when i suddenly want to re-read them; and there are times when I am working on something of my own, but want to read fiction, but not fiction that really grabs me. At those times, books that are just okay are perfect.

    David, this: I definitely have found myself happier when I read a book I just bought or received because I’m excited about it there-and-then versus being “oh yeah, I bought that book 8 years ago, I really wanted to read it for some reason I can’t remember.” — is really interesting to me. I also like being excited about a book, buying it on the rising tide of that excitement, and reading it right then. But I also enjoy the slow-build of enthusiasm when I start a book I’ve forgotten about and discover I really love it.

    Plus, I buy a lot of books I’m really excited about even when I know it will be ages before I have time to read them. Like the sequel to Archivist Wasp, Latchkey, or a new Foreigner novel. I won’t forget the enthusiasm, it just will take some time to get to them. It sounds like this is a category that may not exist for you, or at least not often.

  8. Allan Shampine

    I used to keep a large number of books, but over the years have repeatedly pruned down and am now at two large and one small bookcase. I find that it is extremely rare for me to reread anything these days. I occasionally do so accidentally, but I probably haven’t deliberately reread more than five books in the last ten years. I did just reread the first Felix Castor book by accident, which seemed familiar, but the first reading I stopped after the first book, and this time I enjoyed it more and have continued with the series. So certainly rereading at a later age with a changed viewpoint can bring new insights. Just so many books, so little time…

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