In my dream future, I live in a cozy cottage that has a comfortable, lovely library with floor to ceiling shelves and plenty of room for all of my books.
In my current reality, I live in a small 1 bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with a book collection that pushes the limits of my (not insignificant) amount of shelf space. If my bookshelves were a pair of pants, they’d need to be unbuttoned after Thanksgiving dinner. They are packed to capacity and have little room for additional acquisitions.
Until the day I can house my books in all the comfort and space they deserve, I have to periodically go through my collection and choose what stays and what goes.
If it’s a book I haven’t read, I evaluate whether or not I am still interested in reading it. I’m honest with myself, and I don’t feel bad about getting rid of books I haven’t yet read if my interests have changed. I’ve been collecting books as an adult for 12+ years, and my interests have changed a lot during that time. I accept the fact that there are 30+ other classics that I want to read before I read Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant, and about 50+ classics I would probably re-read before it.
If I’ve read a book and really enjoyed it, I usually keep it. There’s often a chance I’ll want to re-read it someday, or even just reference it again. I also write in my books and mark favorite passages or lines. If I’ve read a book and enjoyed it just an average amount, I consider getting rid of it. It really depends on the book. If I really didn’t enjoy a book, chances are I’ve already gotten rid of it.
If I’m on the fence about a book, it often helps to ask myself one of the following questions:
– If I didn’t own this book and was standing in a bookstore holding a copy in my hands, would I still buy it? If the answer is no, I likely don’t need to continue owning it.
– If I were about to move, would I take this book with me? This question actually works very well for all sorts of things in your house, not just books.
If in the future my interests come back full circle and I do actually want to read a book I’ve discarded, I can buy it again or check it out from the library. It’s pretty unlikely, so it’s worth the gamble.
I’m using this system to go through my book collection, shelf by shelf. I’ve already filled two bags with books to discard. The hardcovers in good condition I take to Strand to sell, and the rest I either donate to Goodwill or put outside on my stoop in a box marked “Free” – it’s kind of lovely to set books free for anyone who walks buy and takes an interest in them. I’ve already freed up quite a bit of room for future book acquisitions. I’m also keeping a list of books I’ve gotten rid of, so that if I ever think of it in the future I don’t drive myself crazy looking for a book that’s gone.
Do you have to weed your book collection? How do you decide what to get rid of? What do you do with your books that you decide to purge?