Culling

June 5, 2009 at 11:56 am | Posted in Book Blather | 7 Comments

Books are heavy.  (I paraphrase “Bricks are heavy” – a statement my old high school friend used to make whenever anyone said something she deemed self-evident).  After moving and setting up my bookcase, expertly repaired by my man Rocket Scientist with a little JB Weld, I feel obligated to remind you all that books are heavy.  So why do we all have so many of them?

Photos of stacks of new books always entice me.  Yet I often wonder why my fellow bloggers buy so many, considering our reading rates realistically.  Say you read 25 books a year.  Great!  But if you go out and buy three new volumes, you’ve just planned out your reading for the next six weeks.  Make it eight, and you’ve got a commitment for four months… but how do you know you’re still going to want to read some of those at that point?  What if something new comes along?  What about the poor sad neglected books already languishing on your shelf?

We all beat ourselves up over our TBR stacks.  We feel guilty that we haven’t gotten around to certain things we think we “should” have read by now.  What we should do is buy books the same way we would buy milk.  You might go through a half-gallon a week, but you don’t then buy 26 gallons every January, for obvious reasons.  (I use milk as an example, even though I am vegan, because I couldn’t think of anything else people buy often that gets quite so smelly when it expires).

I’m the worst offender.  (I’m sure I’ll be smelly when I expire too!)  I virtually never read books I have actually spent money on.  If it doesn’t have a due date, it isn’t getting read.  I have two shelves dedicated to library books, and they rotate through and get turned in at least once a week.  At the rate I’ve been reading lately, I could have read everything in the house within three or four months, and we wouldn’t have had to move my 200-lb bookcase or its contents.  So when I say we should liberate ourselves and cull out those books we’re honestly never going to get around to, I speak as first among sinners.

It’s spring cleaning time!  What’s the book that’s been sitting around your shelves the longest?  Tell us what it is about it that put you off:  The cover art?  The length?  The font?  The smell of the paper or ink?  Is it something you picked out yourself?  Is it too aspirational or outside your normal tastes?

I would offer a prize for best answer, but it would just be an excuse for me to pawn off an old book I didn’t want on someone who probably shouldn’t be collecting any more books anyway!  Instead, I hereby give you permission to cull the herd and take that pesky old book off your list.

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  1. I don’t mind culling the herd one bit. I donate to the library. In fact, I used to give lots of books I regularly read to the library, thinking that I could just check them out any time. Then I made two terrible discoveries.

    1. The library began having book sales and didn’t love my babies the way that I did. They sold them!

    2. It is so difficult to get that perfect-book-that-I-need-right-now at 2 a.m. from the library when I can’t get to sleep. Or even the book that I didn’t LOVE but liked pretty well and want to reread.

    So, I keep most of my heavy, heavy books and read them all the time. Along with that rotating library shelf and my review books. 🙂

    • Ah, a re-reader!

      I virtually never re-read anything. The only exception is when I want to read something that I liked to my crew on a road trip.

      The problem in my household is more one of space than of access, meaning I need room for variety rather than reference materials.

      Anyway, do you find yourself donating unread books?

  2. I swap my unwanted books. Only now that means I have a bookshelf just for swap books… so I’m gonna have to cull some of those and give them to the goodwill or something. The groaning tbr piles? I don’t think any of them get put off because they’re ugly, or too long, but just because something else grabs my curiosity and I can’t resist picking it up first!

  3. I realized that I went on my “rereading semi-rant” without ever answering your question! 🙂

    Actually, I almost never buy a book that I haven’t read already and know that I will want to reread. Thanks to the library, the review books I get, and birthday/Christmas gifts, I always have more than enough books that are essentially free.

    However, I do donate unread books. The review books, which tend to be largely about theology because of my Happy Catholic blog, I give to our church’s library. The few others I give to our local library. Every so often there is a book that I truly feel is not worthy for anyone to read. That very rare book I donate to the trash.

  4. Ah, what a sweet sore spot you just hit, dead center. Actually I did recently cull the herd because we were moving and had to pack up all our treasures. We still moved a LOT of books. I’m in denial about the number of boxes. Many of the books are my friends and who would give away a friend? We’ve moved several times and the movers have always groaned over the number of books we own.

    I do have two guilt books that survived the major moving cull and haven’t been read yet. The first is History by Elsa Morante. I was supposed to read it as part of an online book group but then the group fizzled out before starting the book. My copy is still waiting. The second book is The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849 by Cecil Woodham-Smith. When I picked it up, it sounded quite interesting. I even grabbed it to start reading when I knew I’d be waiting for kids to finish some activity (since this would indicate that my college aged kids were not driving you know it’s been awhile) and would have time to read. Instead I started visiting with some other parents and never started the book. There is no great reason why I never started either book… they simply were overlooked.

  5. Aha! I’ve got you all where I want you! We all admit we have a big TBR stack, but we skirt the question of how long it would take us to read through it and why we are still acquiring additional books.

    My guess is that we tend to pick up or add to our lists about 20% more than we can actually read. Thoughts?

  6. We are moving right now, and ZOMG, the books! LOL We actually need more boxes for books than we do for dishes and clothes and bathroom stuff combined! It’s almost embarrassing! I should do a count when we get down there and see how many boxes of books we end up with. I’ve got five bookshelves, and they’re all double-stacked…

    My excuse? I homeschool my son, so I’m putting books away for him for the future… 😉


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