Stack of Books

How Many Books Are Too Many?

Last year, I might have gone overboard buying books. 2022 was a good book haul year. One day my friend Bev and I were driving around Warrensburg, and I saw a sign for a book sale at Maple Tree Books. Bev drove back, and I was amazed that this man’s driveway, backyard, and garage had long tables with boxes of books on them. But that wasn’t the only book sale we came upon. About a month later there was an outdoor book sale in Bolton Landing on Lake George and again Bev was kind enough to stop and let me look around.  With my friend Sue, we went to the Book Nook in Ravena twice, once 15 minutes before they closed and another time for a sale. There was also the book sale at Upper Madison Street Fair, and  I love that one because it’s a block from my house.  Also, my friend Rebecca Partridge told me about a sale at her church that happened to be on my birthday.  How could I not treat myself to a bag of books on my birthday? And a band there sang ” Happy Birthday” to me. A good way to celebrate turning 62.

The upshot, though, is I was starting to run out of shelve room. I  already had books stacked horizontally on top of books that were vertically stacked in my three bookcases. Each time I came back from a sale, putting them on my shelves felt like playing a game of  Tetris with books.

My problem with book sales is that I have no self-control.  At Warrensburg, I bought 17 books.  At Bolton Landing,  I only bought 8. At the Book Nook the first time, I bought 13 books and 18 the second time. I bought 19 books at the Upper Madison Street Fair and 33 on my birthday.  Of course,  when I bought them, I didn’t worry about where to put them on my shelves. Perish the thought.

When I was in my previous apartment on Morris,  I had a serious overload problem.  I had about five bookcases, but they became full fairly quickly.  I wound up storing books on top of one of my dressers, in the first two drawers of that dresser, and even some more books on a shelf in my closet. I always say that if it takes you more than 5 minutes to find a book in your collection, you failed.  I certainly did with that system.  At least before I moved to this place,  I wound up donating 14 boxes to an AIDS charity. I definitely don’t want to go back to that situation.

Still, I’m lucky that I live alone. My clutter was only affecting me. I remember there was one girl on Bookstagram whose boyfriend gave her an ultimatum to get rid of at least 1/4 of her collection.  She had books piled on the floor, which wasn’t a safe way to store them. It sounds like he wasn’t understanding towards her and he didn’t offer her any help. She sounded overwhelmed by everything, and I don’t blame her.  I wanted to tell her to dump the boyfriend.  Then she might have more room for books.

I know I’m in no position to advise people.  I think, though, you shouldn’t let yourself get stressed out or overwhelmed by books.  I haven’t bought any books this year but if I go to a sale, I think I will make sure I won’t get carried away.  When the weather gets better,  I plan to drop off books at Free Library the next block over.  Meanwhile,  I’ll try not to get overwhelmed by the number of books I have. On the bright side,  I won’t run out of books anytime soon, which makes me happy.

3 thoughts on “How Many Books Are Too Many?”

  1. Hello lDon Levy,
    Have I got a book for you!
    I live in the Albany area and I am downsizing with lots of books to sell. I recently donated over 300 books to the Schenectady Library! With lots left over. I love books too!
    I will be back in New York in May 2023 and if you are interested you are welcome to browse my books then.
    My email is
    Please send me your email so that I may contact you as well and perhaps send you some titles I have.
    Happy reading,
    Rosette Rubins

  2. Hi, Don,
    My husband Kevin and I have a disagreement. He says too many books. I say too few shelves.
    Loved your piece,
    Mary McCarthy

  3. I’ve got far too many books than I can read but like you, can’t control myself sometimes. Reading is a weird thing though. When you’re choosing your next book to read often it’s as if one whispers out to you, “Read me”. Even if you had no intention, suddenly you realize that is the book to read next. That is why I keep more than I can read around me But space does become a problem.

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