How do you choose which books to get rid of?
My joke answer is that you don’t. You keep them all. You have a home with an extra room to store them. You rent a storage shed to keep them all. You build a fortress out of them.
Of course those options aren’t entirely realistic.
Sometimes keeping every book you have ever purchased simply isn’t an option. Read It Forward just published an article for circumstances like that. Dee Williams, the author, recently moved into an 84 square foot house, which is about the same size as an 8 x 10 foot bedroom. As you can imagine, she had to cut down on her book collection a great deal. (Along with her collections of furniture, clothes, cooking equipment, and a dozen other things.)
Though never to the same extent that Williams did, I have culled my book collection in the past. It is a difficult process, but sometimes it is an important one. I’ve developed a system to make it a bit easier on myself. When going through my books, I ask myself the following questions.
- Is it a book that I adore?
- Do I have nostalgic feelings about the book?
- Is it part of a series or collection that I want to keep intact? (I collect children’s books, for example.)
- Is it a book that I am planning to read again?
- Is it a book that is also a useful tool? (A reference book or a cookbook that I intend to use.)
If the answer to all of those questions is no, then I set the book aside. Once I create my “to toss” pile, I take a second look at the books to make sure that nothing I want to keep has slipped into. Then I divide the pile further into “books to donate” and “books to give to friends/family/acquaintances” piles.
Even though getting rid of books sounds simple, I always have to convince myself it is a good idea. I also have to promise myself that if I give away a book and decide that I miss it sometime down the line, I am allowed to buy a new copy. (Even if it does feel like a waste of money.) I have never actually had to go through with buying a second version, but giving myself permission to do it is an important part of the process. It makes me feel like no book will be lost forever.
Those are just some of the ways that I go about making decisions about book culling. I’m sure that other people use a very different methodology. If you have any tips and tricks about how you curate your personal library, let me know! It’s fascinating how different folks make those tough choices.