Saturday, April 10th, 2010

I Have a Serious Book Problem

Word Finder by J.I. Rodale
The Word Finder by J.I. Rodale. Pictured with a pile of other books in my eclectic collection.

There’s nothing like finishing your taxes and realizing how many books you’ve gotten rid of in the past year (149) and seeing all the books still piled up around you to hammer that thought home.

And yet, I bought six books the other day. (Please don’t tell my husband.)

Today, I bought two. (He knows about these two.)

Granted, one of the books I bought today was a copy of “The Word Finder” — compiled and edited by J.I. Rodale. (Thirteenth edition, 1957. Still, in nearly mint condition it was a steal at a yard sale for 25¢. Could you pass that up?)

But the fact is, I’ve been trying to rid myself of books since I moved into this house. (A painful purging, I assure you. There’s nothing worse than asking a writer to give up a beloved book.)

Nonetheless, I’ve been trying.

This year so far, I’ve donated 59 books from my collection. (I don’t know how many I’ve given away to family and fellow writers. Not nearly as many, but more than I can remember.) In the last few years, I’ve given away over 500 books.

And still, they’re piled up all over the place. (And, I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve got LOTS of books stashed in dresser drawers in my bedroom. I learned this trick from my Mom. [Hi, Mom!] She only kept a few books in her nightstand, but I have entire drawers packed with paperbacks. I have to admit…it’s really convenient to have hundreds of books at your fingertips. When you need to do some late-night reading…you don’t even have to get out of bed…)

But I digress.

When the Husband of Awesome and I moved out of our apartment into our first home, we moved with 26 boxes of books. We remember that number, not so much with fondness, as irritation. There’s nothing like moving 26 large  boxes of books out of a third-floor walk-up.

I managed to unload the encyclopedias on Ebay before we moved into this house (what a waste they were, but what can I say? I’m a sucker for books. And the deal included so many more  books than just the encyclopedias.)

The old house was a town home: lots of walls, few windows. It was the ideal situation for a library. This house, detached, is larger…but the sheer number of windows precludes all the bookshelves we need. We’ve been here a few years now…and I’ve still got books in boxes that were never unpacked.

Really, they’ve got to go. This is the year (it’s part of the plan).

So…how do you cull your collection? Other than the obvious wall-bangers, how do you decide which books make the grade and which ones don’t?

Please tell me. I really need to know.

20 comments to I Have a Serious Book Problem

  • Shane

    I don’t cull. I just fill boxes when I run out of room for piles, which start when I run out of shelf space. I’m gonna convert my garage into a library.

    • Hi Shane! I would love my own library…I used to dream about high ceilings and a ladder to get to the top ones. These days, I’m thinking about erecting some shelves above all the doorjambs in the house…

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  • Diane Scott Lewis

    Kelly, I keep the ones I loved to read the first time and might read again. I always keep the reference books for my research. I keep the books friends have signed for me at book signings, or someone dear gave to me (such as my beloved but now gone aunt). The rest can be donated or given away. If they were expensive I might try selling them on Amazon.

    That’s my method.

    • Hi Diane. I use a similar method for the books: surrounding myself with my most loved volumes either in my office or bedroom (the two places where I’m most likely to be…) Books lower on the totem pole can be found elsewhere in the house… I guess I’m going to have to raid those far-lying shelves for Ebay candidates! Thanks for the idea.

  • margaret west

    Kelly, you have to be brutal lol I’ve decided that is I have not touched them for a year, then they have to go!!!!!

    • Oh, Margaret…I don’t have the strength to toss things that way! (I wish I did. Then maybe the mail and school artwork wouldn’t be piling up around my ears!) What do you do when you want to read a book after you’ve tossed it?

  • Sue

    I think you must be like my good friend and somewhat like me–they are more than just books–they are a part of us. So, don’t concern yourself too much about getting rid of them. Just keep stashing them and enjoying them. I have some I took from Cordell’s Uncle Bud’s house in the late 60’s and I still haven’t read them. I always thought I’d have time to read them after I got older–I suppose I’m just not old enough yet!! I figure you and the rest of my family will dispose of them when I am gone–sorry!!

    • Hi Sue! You have books from the 60s you haven’t read yet? Thank you for telling me that! I don’t feel so bad about the ones that have been sitting on my TBR pile for a few months. You are so right, btw, about books being like good friends…that’s why they’re so hard to let go of. So…can I stash some of my books at your house? The Husband of Awesome is starting to grumble about the piles… (!)

  • Charlie

    For me, it was computer books and then Sci-Fi. I used to have no problems spending 100’s of dollar per visit to a book store. And that doesn’t count the electronic copies I’ve bought and printed.

    Can you recall the time you realized it was “ok” to buy books? Isn’t it amazing how you can spend so much on a book but not on something else.

    • Hi Charlie! I can’t remember a time that I “realized” it was okay to buy books. I’ve always bought them! I do remember saving my lunch money (rather than eating) so that I could save enough to buy books. Those were the good ol’ days, eh?

  • Amy

    I don’t cull. My father said you never throw out a book. The only time I do is if I have a double, but I don’t cull. I have boxes with itemized lists of what is in those boxes. One day when I can display them again I will, but if I need a book in one of those boxes I know exactly what numbered box they’re in.

    • Hi Amy! Thanks for dropping by. I would LOVE to never throw out a book! And how organized you are….I LOVE IT! In fact, I like it so much I think I might need to put this into play here. I can see the piles around me diminishing VERY quickly, with little effort, and no pain. You’re a genius! Thanks for the idea.

  • Barb Hauser

    I retired from teaching with a collection of several hundred books. The children’s books are often so much better than many of the adult level ones. I, with difficulty, sorted and boxed about 250 for an organization that donates books to needy MD kids. The rest I’ve fought to keep, and I’m glad; 2 of my daughters-in-law are homeschooling, and it’s a joy to have the books go to my grandkids.
    As for other books, anything I know I’ll reread, I cram in somewhere, any nook and cranny will do. I’ve always loved books. Not everyone understands the pleasure of having your own book in your hands ss you’re curled up comfortably,reading away. Libraries are great, but I tend to develop fines and the books aren’t always available when wanted/needed. Nothing like having your travel guide to Australia that you reserved from the library becoming available 3 weeks a-f-t-e-r you get back home!
    Sometimes I just have to wait until I’m “ready” to let a book go. Some are harder than others.
    So, Kelly, you have my understanding and complete sympathy. It’s hard to get rid of friends and companions (the book kind).
    Blessing, Barb

    • Hi Barb! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. I appreciate the sympathies. 🙂 I am leaning more and more toward holding on to my books rather than letting more of them go… I recently had an experience where I let one of my darlings go…but had forgotten about it. I looked high and low for that book…and then realized I’d donated it. I had to buy it again! I want to avoid that happening in the future. The only way around that, as I see it, is to keep them all!

  • Barb Hauser

    Makes a lot of sense to me! I’ll share my books, but I hate to let them go permanently. I have 4 series that I have read and reread several times. Each time it’s a treat, even if I know the story line already.

  • Celsa Tharpe

    Hello can I reference some of the information from this site if I provide a link back to your site?

  • Miriam Rivers

    Hey, thanks for the post.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

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