Bookcases and Hot Air Balloons

 

Hot air balloons, Prosser WA, 2011

This past weekend I drove across the mountains to spend some time with my daughter, T, on her birthday. When I left home on the coast, it was raining, sprinkling when I reached the pass. Even with the sprinkles, there was enough sunshine to bring out the colors. Bright yellow leaves against the evergreens. Pinky-red bushes climbing the mountains. Snow more than a thousand feet up.

Driving through Eastern Washington is a real treat in the fall. If it wasn’t such a long drive, I would have stopped to take pictures of the orchards blushing with red apples, the grapevines dressed for autumn, and the sparkling rivers. And overseeing it all were two solemn mountains, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams.

On Saturday, T and I celebrated her birthday with Indian food and cupcakes. We had planned to take in the Balloon Stampede in Walla Walla early Sunday morning. Balloonists seem to prefer the calm of dawn to take to the sky.

Prosser, WA 2011

But sometime in the middle of the night, all hope for calm disappeared as a vicious, noisy windstorm blew in, rattling the windows and bending the trees. And it just kept on blowing.

Before the sun rose, the festival website had announced that the balloon launch was cancelled. I guess hot air balloons and high winds don’t mix.

No worry. We had a backup plan. Or rather I did. I’d noticed books spilling out of T’s bookcases. Wouldn’t this be a good time to weed through them? T gave me a skeptical look. But she just couldn’t resist my enthusiasm and my mother-power.

So … while she sat on the floor in the TV room, I carried stacks of books in to her. All she had to do was divide them into piles:  TBR (to be read), TBK (to be kept), GA (give away), and LMTAI (Let me think about it.)

Within a few hours, the LMTAI pile had been reduced to nothing, the TBR pile had been given its own convenient shelf, the TBK books were classified and shelved, and The GA pile had been stuffed into nine large bags and donated to the city library.

I’m an author who hopes to sell lots of books, still, collecting them doesn’t hold the same appeal for me as it used to. I remember once, about twenty years ago, staying in a bed-and-breakfast in a college town. The owner was a very literate woman, an English professor, I think, and her walls were covered with bookcases. At the time, I was impressed. Now, not so much.

I still have lots of books. But I’ve been weeding through them, giving a few bags to the library every now and then. Most of my reading lately has been on my Kindle.

I did bring three books back from my daughter’s house, one for my sister and two for me: What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton from the TBR pile and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz from the GA pile.

 

See also: Up, Up and Away in a Hot Air Balloon.

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About Nicki Chen

About Nicki Chen
Nicki Chen is a writer living in Edmonds, WA. Her first novel, Tiger Tail Soup, is set in China during the Japanese invasion and occupation, 1937-1945. She’s working on a second novel set in Vanuatu, a South Pacific nation where she and her late husband lived in the early ’90s.

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28 comments


  1. Recently, I donated around fifty books to our local used book store.Now is time to refill those shelves. 🙂 Great photos, Nicki!




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  2. I’m sorry the balloon stampede was canceled. But I’m glad you had a backup plan. 😀

    I’ve taken a ton of books to the Half-Price Bookstore near me. I might have to do another purge soon.




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  3. We did a major book purge 2 years ago. Like you most of the books we get now are on Kindles. At this point in my life, it so much easier.




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    • I buy soft-cover books every so often out of loyalty to our local bookstore. But I do enjoy reading on my Kindle. Not only does a digital book take up less space, but also the Kindle is easy to hold with one hand while I’m eating. (I always read while I eat breakfast.)




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  4. I love books. I’d have bookcases all over, only our house is tiny. So it’s the library and the Kindle for me. The only books I insist on hanging onto are all my history/ literature books. I need them for references!




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  5. Thats great that you had a a backup plan so you would stay horribly disappointed in not getting to see the hot air balloon launch.




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  6. Charleen Relyea

    I seem to be sorting books all the time… I finish by just putting everything in a different place. Your system is a new one for me, and I am eager to try it… Thanks!




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    • I usually don’t have many books in the to-be-read pile. I wait until I’m almost done reading one book before I get another one. If I wait too long, I have this feeling like, “Oh, no, what will I do? I don’t have anything to read.”

      This week, the Friends of the Library in Edmonds are having a big sale of books we donated at the library. It’s nice that all those books will find a new home.




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  7. Gretchen Houser

    Leave it to you to turn a simple visit to your daughter into a lovely essay. I’ve moved several times over the past years and as a result, was forced to parse my previous book collection down to a precious few. (Muriel Barbery’s wonderful novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog; an old copy of Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers and Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. And I wouldn’t, couldn’t be me without the Complete Poems of e.e. Cummings and Thomas Wolfe’s The Hound of Darkness. I’ve yet to read a book via Kindle but who knows what my future holds?




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    • You’re very brave, Gretchen, to have narrowed your collection down to a precious few. It couldn’t have been easy. On the other hand, in our acquisitive society, many of us have more books than we need and far more possessions than it’s healthy and reasonable to own.

      I haven’t read The Hound of Darkness. I looked it up, and it doesn’t seem to be readily available. I guess it’s good you saved it.




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  8. Nicki, I like your back up plan and sounds you and your daughter had a great time…did you stop a lot to read some of the books, the blurbs, about the authors? Well done on all the sorting and very efficient! I think I could use a helping hand here, although I’ve been quite harsh on my collections during the moves! Whilst I read mostly on Kindle I do love books and spent a heavenly hour in Foyles today, it was pure bliss and I wanted to buy SO much but restrained myself to one book! BTW did you ever go ballooning?? That must be amazing!!




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    • I didn’t stop to read any of the books, but T did. In fact, she read excerpts to me. It was hard to put some of the books aside, but now that they’re well organized, she can come back to them any time.

      We didn’t go ballooning last weekend. The pictures are from a 2011 hot air balloon festival we attended. We enjoyed watching the whole process of laying out the balloons, filling them with hot air, and taking to the sky. Many years ago, my husband and I celebrated an anniversary by taking a ride in a hot air balloon. And, yes, it was amazing.




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  9. I find it hard to give away books! But I have some which I don’t think I will read again. We have an online group to exchange books in Suzhou but I never used it for the moment.

    I have a friend in Spain who reviews books (the publishers send them to her) and I asked if she still had space for more books, why didn’t she donate some to the library. She told me the library doesn’t accept donations! Weird…




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    • Actually our library doesn’t accept books for the library, but they collect donated books for The Friends of the Library. The Friends of the Library is a volunteer group. Once a year they have a sale of used books. I suppose they donate the money to the library. Libraries probably prefer to choose their own books.




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  10. Aren’t we lucky to have a problem of too many books. Some people have limited access to books of their own choosing.




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    • You’re right, Paddy. We should give thanks for all the reading material available to us. Books are so readily available. Here in Edmonds, we even have dozens of little neighborhood roadside lending libraries. An embarrassment of riches. Actually embarrassing how much we have.




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  11. Sorry you didn’t get to watch the balloons go up, up, up!
    But what a great Plan B ~> clearing clutter!

    We’ve been to balloon festivals and the colors are so much fun to see against the blue blue sky. We’ve also been on a balloon ride and it cannot be too windy or it becomes too dangerous to attempt to land.




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    • T and I were lucky to be able to attend another balloon festival a few years ago. The sight of the beautiful colors and shapes of the balloons against the blue sky was worth getting up early to see. Many years ago my husband and I went for a balloon ride. Besides being fun, the experience surprised me in some ways. I hadn’t imagined us taking part in getting the balloon up in the sky and folding it up afterwards. And I hadn’t been prepared for how peaceful it felt to float on the wind and then how noisy it was when they turned the heater on. I don’t know if the wind was a problem, but we landed in a cow pasture about a mile from our expected destination–just missed a small river.




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  12. Love your book sorting, Nicki:)
    I also regularly go through my too many books and give some away. Often with a heavy heart. BTW I love Junot Diaz!




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    • I don’t remember ever regretting giving away an article of clothing, but a time or two I wished I had one of the books I gave away. Some old books are hard to find again.

      I haven’t started the Junot Diaz book yet. I’m in the middle of a book by Alice McDermott. I’ll get to it soon.




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