In my Thursday Post book column for June 30, I reviewed “The Secret Lives of Hoarders” by Matt Paxton. If only my pieces on classic poetry from the Urdu or my praise of the latest winner of the Prix Goncourt would generate this kind of attention and mail! At all events, hoarding does seem to be a subject that people respond to.

Paxton’s book focuses on extreme hoarders, those like the famous Collyer Brothers, whose “collections” take over a house, usually destroying it in the process. In some cases, only narrow passageways exist between a bed and a bathroom, the other rooms being packed tight with stuff and essentially inaccessible. We won’t go into the broken appliances, the stench, the dead animals.

In the past we’ve talked about collecting/accumulating/hoarding in the Reading Room, but usually about our own practices. But I wonder if RRers have ever come across really extreme savers of books, paper, or similar print-related items. How do you keep your own collecting from turning into hoarding? Or have you crossed the line? I know I have too many books because I can’t find those I want in all the boxes that fill my basement (and a storage unit). Yet I do think the actual volumes are well chosen--scholarly, esthetically pleasing, valuable, or just personal favorites--and not merely an accumulation resulting from an uncontrollable addiction. Still, t I sometimes see people at the Friends of the Library book sale room whose cars are filled with old books and papers, such that they scarcely can fit in the driver’s seat. Could this happen to me, I wonder? What led to this compulsion?

Of course, those who championed Ebooks in last week’s thread about editions and formats can say: “Such madness is impossible with a Kindle or Nook.” I suppose that’s true. In the brave new world of the 21st century even our vices will be different.

- Michael Dirda

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