Don Levy reading at the Poets Speak Loud open mic on Monday, January 28, 2019

The Next Chapter: The Kondo Quandary

One of the newest lifestyle gurus is Marie Kondo, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tyding Up. I gather she also has a show on Netflix where she helps hoarders declutter their houses. One thing that she has said that irks the bookish community is that “ideally “, you should own no more than 30 books. To many book lovers, that number seems very small.



When I heard about Kondo’s 30 book rule, I thought immediately that I probably own at least 30 poetry anthologies. I love anthologies because they can introduce you to a number of poets you may not have heard before. Some of my favorite anthologies include The Voice That is Great Within Us, edited by Hayden Carruth, Contemporary American Poetry, edited by Donald Hall and a book I’ve blogged about before, The Contemporary American Poetry, edited by Mark Strand. I also own an anthology of French poetry as well as some of British poets. Because I have so many anthologies, I don’t have too many collections by a variety of poets. I have books by Frank O’Hara, Elizabeth Bishop, Randall Jarrell, and Stephen Dunn. I also have a collection of chapbooks by local poets like Howard J Kogan, Rebecca Schumejda, and Bunkon Tuon. I love going back to them. I know I’m not getting rid of them.

I also have a small collection of art books. As my friends on Facebook know, every night before I go to bed, I love to post art. I have art books from the museums I have been to like The Uffizi in Florence and The Orsay in Paris. I also have books on artists I love like Renoir, Magritte, and Dali. I love looking at the paintings from time to time.

A majority of the books are fiction. I don’t think that will shock people. I have a number of classics like David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, Persuasion by Jane Austen and Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, to name a few. I also have contemporary fiction by authors like Celeste Ng, Meg Wollitzer, Dave Eggars, and Zadie Smith. I am proudest though of lesser-known writers or hard to find books. Among my favorite in this group include Life, A User Guide by Georges Perec, about life in a Paris apartment building, Now Playing at Canterbury by Vance Boujaily, which I remember garnered rave reviews when published in 1975, Memoirs of Hectate County, a collection of short stories about life in the suburbs by literary critic Edmund Wilson and The Gallery by John Horne Burns about life after WW2 in Italy that included a section that took place in a gay bar in Naples. I can’t see myself getting rid of any of them.

Maybe I’m paranoid but I think Kondo’s 30 book limit is part of an anti-bookish sentiment in our culture. I always want to scream when I watch Fixer Upper and see Joanna Gaines shelves books with the spines hiding. A true book lover would never shelve books with the pages showing. How would you find a particular book that you want? I admit that I have a shelf that I haven’t put together and a number of books in boxes, but it won’t take me forever to find my copy of Cheaper By the Dozen or my small collection of Marjorie Allingham mysteries. According to Kondo, to know if you want to keep something to put it in your hands and measure how much joy you get from the object to know if you want to keep it or toss it. I know the joy books bring into my life. I love looking at my shelves and knowing that at any time I pick one up and start reading it.