Admitting a problem is the first step…

I recently acknowledged a serious problem: I am well on my way to becoming a book hoarder. Instead of shopping for the latest fashions, I prefer to spend my time in bookstores and libraries, adding books to a reading list beyond completion. On weekends, I’d rather relax on the back deck and read for a few hours than spend “a night out on the town.” My parents only encouraged this behavior with regular gifts of books. I even decorate with books!

We have lived at Cairn Hill Farms for almost four years now, and with the departure of kid #2 to college, I started to unpack the many, many boxes of books in the basement. However, it quickly became evident that we lacked the shelf space to utilize the vast collection. So I began the challenge of drastically reducing our family book collection.

To start, some piles were quite easy: We do not need 40 cookbooks (I kept our 10 favorites). We also didn’t need dated reference materials. Certain tomes were easier than others. One son enjoyed the Gary Paulson books, so these were set aside in the chance that he might want them later. Certain popular series were worth keeping: Anne of Green Gables, The Lord of the Rings, The Narnia Collection, Harry Potter, Little House, etc.

Sentimental books presented tougher choices. Favorite nightly readers from childhood like Goodnight Moon were saved as were books inscribed to the kids. In fact, giving books with cherished inscriptions is a family tradition in both the Roche and Murphy Families, the copy of Smoky by Will James from my parents, Horse Stories for Children signed by one of my first riding instructors, the copy of The Imitation of Christ signed by Dr. Febes Facey (a high school graduation present). There are also books that provide insight in my parents’ lives, Dad’s graduate school copy of The Hedgehog and the Fox filled with handwritten notes.

Throughout this process, I recognized sentimental attachments that didn’t really connect to books. For example, I held onto a copy of Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion. While the movie was a favorite of the men in the family, I didn’t connect with Kesey’s stream of consciousness, not worth keeping for me, personally.

What should be done with all those extra books? I started by piling them on the dining room table and asking family, friends, and neighbors to take a few. Then some books were donated to local libraries, donated for fundraisers, or donated to Goodwill. In closing, purchasing books can be rather costly. Do you have some just gathering dust? Share! Donate! You never know when a book will start a memorable adventure.

Thanks for reading!


You Show Me Yours and I’ll Show You Mine


When I visit friends, one of my favorite activities is to browse their bookshelves. I never know when or if I will discover my next great read. I also decorate with books. If you visit in March, my Irish literature collection is spread throughout the house. So here’s a quick glimpse of some favorites from my own bookshelf. Have a look; I’m sure you will find something here to read to your kids, for children’s summer reading, or a gem for yourself 🙂 Happy Reading!

Picture Books:

Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B. Johnson (This lovely story is based on a line from Thoreau’s Walden)
Sara Dippity by Maggie Murphy (Shameless plug)
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

Easy Readers:

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa Series by Erica Silverman
The Henry and Mudge Series by Cynthia Rylant

First Books:

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman (Touching story about the creation of a community garden)
Little Black, A Pony by Walter Farley
Stuart Little by E.B. White

For the Boys:

Rascal by Sterling North
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

For the Girls:

Anne of Green Gables Series by L.M. Montgomery
Little House on the Prairie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Great Series for All:

Narnia Series by C. S. Lewis
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

Shelf of Irish Love:

Brave Margaret: An Irish Adventure by Robert D. San Souci (Who says girls can’t be heroes too?)
Jamie O’Rourke Series by Tomie dePaola
How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
Born Fighting by James Webb
Ullysses by James Joyce

For Older Kids:

The Man-Eating Lions of Tsavo by Lieut.-Col J. H. Patterson (This is a short pamphlet available through the Field Museum in Chicago. These unique and at times frightening events form the basis for the movie, The Ghost and the Darkness.)

A Reason for Living by George Roche (A collection of short stories, written by my father, sharing adventures of life in the Colorado Mountains)

For the Adults:

The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (This one is for the ladies: Scottish History, Time Travel, and Romance. WARNING: The end of book one is, well,…bizarre. Please do yourself a favor and commit to at least reading through book two.)

In Search of the Pearl of Great Price by Tessa Schlesinger (This is the story of my dear friend, Dr. Febes Tan Facey. Her life story is one worth reading)

Sacred Time and the Search for Meaning by Gary Eberle (What is Sacred Time and why do we need it?)

Shakespeare & Company by Sylvia Beach (The post WWI bookstore hangout for Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Pound, Lawrence, and Stein on the Left Bank in Paris)

Wild at Heart by John Elderedge (All fathers should read this book and pass it on to their sons)

The Hedgehog and the Fox by Isaiah Berlin (“The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Why is this classification important?)

Father Joe by Tony Hendra