Booking Through Thursday: Weeding

October 15, 2009 at 1:04 pm | Posted in Book Blather | 5 Comments

We’re moving in a couple weeks (the first time since I was 9 years old), and I’ve been going through my library of 3000+ books, choosing the books that I could bear to part with and NOT have to pack to move. Which made me wonder… When’s the last time you weeded out your library? Do you regularly keep it pared down to your reading essentials? Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain? Or do you simply not get rid of books? At all? (This would have described me for most of my life, by the way.) And–when you DO weed out books from your collection (assuming that you do) …what do you do with them? Throw them away (gasp)? Donate them to a charity or used bookstore? SELL them to a used bookstore? Trade them on Paperback Book Swap or some other exchange program?

How topical!  I just donated a bag of books today.  My place of work put on a book fair as a fundraiser.  I was able to walk in, look around at everything on offer, and walk out empty-handed.

I’m strict about my book collection.  I allow myself one bookcase, plus a smaller one that is just for cookbooks.  The larger case has now been cut down by 1/6, because Noelie found out how to get up on the bottom shelf.  (There are now charming beak marks on a few things, including my favorite brass-bound photo album).  I also made room for my husband, who has few books but is entitled to display them.

I don’t double-shelve and I don’t stack.  To me there are only three reasons to keep books in the house:  You refer to them regularly; you plan to read them and couldn’t get them conveniently elsewhere; or you like them as decoration.  If you go by this system, stacking and double-shelving means you can’t enjoy your books for aesthetic reasons.  It probably also means you’re trying to force yourself to read more than you really have time for.  (Trust me – I just realized last week that I read more than I sleep, and, come to think of it, more than I spend at work).  So I weed regularly because I have limited space.

I think most books are actually unattractive and most bookshelves are clutter magnets.  I’d rather focus on reading them than rearranging them all the time.  As soon as I read something, I get rid of it:  give it back to the library or to the person who lent it to me, or put it in the Sell box.  I keep and reuse a cardboard box that’s small enough for me to carry.  Every time I go to Portland I bring it to Powell’s and trade in whatever they’ll take.  Whatever they won’t take sort of lingers in the box until another occasion comes up to get rid of them.

I have used Bookmooch.  I’ve brought books to my book group and let them pick over anything they wanted.  I’ve donated sacks of stuff to library book drives and to thrift stores.  If a book is in horrible condition, missing a cover, moldy, or with pages falling out, I’m not against throwing it in the recycle.  Mostly, I keep my books under control by relying on the library.  I don’t like paperbacks and I won’t generally buy anything I can get at the library.  If I can’t wait, I’ll buy it in hardcover and then trade it in when I’m done.  As often as not, I use the trade credit for gifts or things that aren’t books.

When I left high school, I had an entire wall of board-and-brick bookshelves filled with battered and stained paperback books.  I have since moved no fewer than twenty-five times in 16 years.  That will make a believer out of anyone.  I think I used to hoard books, although I virtually never read the ones I bought, because I wanted to look more intellectual when people came over!  I’ve let go of that and now I’d rather just avoid straining my back when I relocate.  Again.



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  1. I used to move a lot and know how hard it is when you have 50 boxes of books. Now that I’m staying put, my pile keeps growing.

  2. You’re so much more practical than I. Books I read once and kind of like or don’t care for I give away/swap, but the ones I love I can’t help holding onto. I do read them over and over. Now that we have our own house with no plans to move soon I’ve been gathering more books than ever!

    • I’m saving all my re-reads for when I retire!

  3. My bookshelves are all double stacked. It has to be that way or I would have run out of room long ago!

  4. I stack out of necessity, but won’t double-shelve. I want to be able to see every title.
    Weeding is a constant process. I like to put things aside for the monthly book swap at the Wolfhound. I also like to circulate books I’ve read among my Bookleaves book group. In addition, there’s a Global Village cafe for the national and international students and their library is a little run down, so if I get something that might freshen it up, then I slip it to them. Finally, I trade at What The Book? for credit towards used books which is really the most interesting section of the store for me.

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