I’ve been collecting books for years. In part this is because I’m a librarian, and so I’m trained to see the value in written things. In part it’s because I’m an Ars Magica author, and so I have a tendency to pick things up and think :”One day I may need this for a book on X.” The problem is that crunch time has come. My library is expanding at a rate that makes it useless as a writing tool. As evidence, I cite the shelf of books my wife and I bought in England three years ago. All of them were selected because they are basically pure Ars source material. Since I came home, I’ve not opened a single one. Too much other material to be going on with.
And so, time to weed. This is a library term (although younger librarians may prefer the more politically-correct “deselect”).
Some of my books are simply going to go to the charity shop, and many are just going to go in the bin. There’s another library secret: we kill more books than you’d dream possible. Someone needs to be the undertaker for books, and giving them to charity when we know they are worthless is just spineless. The rest are going to be sifted for use before being weeded or added to my small list of reference books which I’m keeping. Time for my library to end one cycle of its life.
Time for a harvest.
The plan is to assess and harvest at least one book a week. That gets me nowhere near my target for discarding, but I presume some of the books will be of only middling use, or will be so full of useful material they will graduate to reference.
Notes for myself (a plan for the harvest):
Ancient Egyptian Religion / Egyptian Mythology / Illustrated Egyptian Mythology : not suitable for Ars Magica. Not suitable for that other thing. If I ever did an ancient Egypt project I could reconstruct the research.
Bullfinch’s Mythology: available everywhere.
Chambers’ Dictionary of Etymology: Available online. Also: a brick of a book.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Urban Legends: available on the Web.
Hindu Stories – available on the Internet.
The First Merchant Venturers: 46 years old. Get newer and better if needed.
The Illustrated Golden Bough: Abridged. I have read the original and it is materially superior.
The Knights Templar: 30 years old. Can reconstruct if ever needed. It’s a pity because it’s obviously useful, but I don’t see myself using it in any of the projects I have lined up, and it’s kind of obvious.
Medieval Warfare: 34 years old. Get better as required.
Realms of Fantasy: Lovely illustrations, but no immediate or mid-term use.
Teach Yourself: the History of Ireland: No need for it. I bought it to prep for the Ireland book and that never came my way.
The Travels of Marco Polo : available elsewhere. Too much other material to get through first.
Armenian Folktales and Fables: Eventually someone needs to write a Georgian Campaign. Before then, though, there seem to be a few useful stories in it. Harvest then discard?
Ancient Ireland: Keep for now. Assess when you have The Contested Isle.
Ancient Tales and Folklore of Japan: Probably available elsewhere, but still, was able to use Japanese faeries in recent Ars supplement, and so likely more worthwhile material.
Beautiful Angiola: Sicilian Faerie Tales. If I ever restart the Sicily thing, of high value.
The British: Myths and Legends. Seems harvestable.
Chronicles of the Crusades: line ball. Reassess later.
The Fairy Stories of Oscar Wilde: have basic form of highly stealable material, but are not widely known. Possibly too religious? Assess further when mining.
Legends and Traditions of Cheshire – useful for plot hooks. Can be harvested in a single later pass. Possibly a mini setting piece?
Myths and Legends of the Middle Ages. Random sampling page 147 is a biography of King Laurin of the Rosegarten. Clearly worth a revisit.
The Natural History: Throw this out on next pass. Available elsewhere in more complete form. Sentimental.
Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance: The history seems bad and out of date, but some of the imagery is directly stealable. The writing is turgid though.
Wolf at the Door: Throw it away when you get over the fact that it has Neil Gaiman’s “Instructions” in it.