Thursday, October 9, 2014

Burning Books

From the opening paragraph of 'Dragonfly in Amber' by Diana Gabaldon:
"Roger Wakefield stood in the center of the room, feeling surrounded...the books..the books!"

When we began packing at the end of August I was horrified to discover that some items in our finished basement room had fallen prey to mildew.
In four previous years of similar hot and humid summers this hasn't been an issue.
Most affected were books on the bottom two shelves of my small open bookcase.
I don't mind the slightly stuffy odor of old books--that scent of softened and yellowed paper and shabby bindings.
It was the smell which hung about the stacks of the library in my hometown, familiar and expected.
The odor from my mold be-speckled tomes is another matter.

Teasel--my devoted helper.

Books from the upper shelves and some of those in boxes were afflicted in varying degrees.
I began sorting those which were impossibly vile into one heap, setting aside others which I hoped could be salvaged.
I made a solution of Murphy's Oil Soap diluted in a little water and spiked with a generous dollop of tea tree oil. 
Sunshine was streaming into the garage, so I worked there, swabbing down book covers, wiping them dry, standing them, spine uppermost, on a bench in the front porch.
Most responded well to this treatment although
if I were to stick my sensitive nose directly on the pages I would have to admit that they don't smell like new books.

Reluctantly I carried a number of damaged books out to heave onto Jim's bonfire: the tattered copies of the 'Pooh books' beloved since childhood, a dear old songbook, the entire Poldark series in paperback--a few less cherished.
I watched for a moment as the bindings caught and flared and pages began to blacken, then returned to my sorting.
Books in the glass fronted cupboard fared well.
They had been removed and carried to the other house before hot and humid weather arrived.
I dusted the cupboard, dusted each book as I retrieved it from the guest room closet.
I have a box piled with books destined for the library or charity shop.
After years of lugging around numerous tomes on crafting, gardening, decorating, I've reached a place of wanting to have less.
As I picked up each book I asked myself, "Will I really want to read this again?" Or--"Am I likely to suddenly undertake the crafts outlined in this book which I have had for a decade?"
I steeled myself to an honest answer and added yet another book to the give-away box.

The favorites which I re-read once a year or so have lived in the fireplace cupboard--they were safe and sound, smelling only slightly of woodsmoke.

This small bookcase resided in my downstairs sewing room, tucked against an outside wall. 
We have a dehumidifier in the basement.
No idea why it was invaded with mold.
I thoroughly scrubbed it, set the case in front of a sunny open window, took the removable shelves out to spend the day in fresh air.
I happened to harvest lavender from my herb garden at the 'other house' [which we once called 'home'] and decided that its fresh scent in this newly painted room would be beneficial.  When it has completely dried, I will place sprigs on all the book shelves.

There are still boxes of books [boxes of everything!] in the lower level back room here.
I tackle them a few at a time, doing the sorting which ideally should have been done before moving.
Our week has been busy with unexpected and [to us] exciting developments--not conducive to plodding away at settling the house!


  1. Now you have me wondering, what it is that is not conducive to settling in the house.
    On the book front I know the feeling you mentioned about wether you will actually ever need some of the craft books, I went through mine the other day. Will I ever want to do barge painting again? just one example. I was good and got rid of quite a few.

  2. So hard to let go of books, mildewed or not. There are other things I'm more than ready to let go of, but books, sigh, it's hard.

  3. I know what you mean about letting go of books. I'm slowly weeding them out though.

    What is being shown in your header photo?

    Have a great weekend ~ FlowerLady

  4. I feel your angst - it is hard to burn even badly-damaged books, especially when they have been much-loved and kept from childhood. I am sorry you have had to part with some old friends. I am still cherishing my Poldark novels and telling myself I shall be re-reading them soon . . . Ahem . . .

  5. I feel your angst too! What a great idea the lavender is though - I will try it myself next year. I have to admit to passing the Diana Gabbled on (as we call her in this house) novels straight on as they take up so much room on the shelves. BB got me addicted to them last year!

  6. Sad burning books, but I suppose even sadder having them mildewed. 'Save the Children' charity bookshops are so good for surplus books, and of course for picking up some more!