This post is about weeding books. It’s contentious, I know, but there are times when you have to do it. Let’s talk about it.
A few points about books
For me, books are not clutter. They pass on human knowledge and experience and develop ideas. They help to stock the mind. Whether fiction or non-fiction, books take you beyond the here and now.
A personal collection is just that: personal. Built up over years, it reflects your own particular interests and, to some extent, yourself. Judging by the furore that greeted Marie Kondo’s apparent pronouncement that you should have fewer than 30 books in your home, there are a lot of book lovers out there. And for that we should be glad!
Weeding books is a personal affair yet others understand it very well. Read So we’re in deacquisition mode around the bungalow. You’ll empathise.
Times for weeding books
One of the times when weeding books becomes necessary – and sometimes essential – is when space runs out. This is when the shelves are full and there are piles of books everywhere. You might find it difficult to move about or to sit down.
Another common time to weed is when you move. Perhaps you’re moving into a smaller home and there simply isn’t the room for all your books. Perhaps you are moving into an existing household or setting up a new home with someone else, and you want to bring your collections of books together.
Weeding books gives you …
I’ll offer you five possibilities and, of course, there are more.
Space on the shelves or the floor – don’t underrate it!
A look in the mirror, which may not always be pleasing or flattering. Be prepared for this.
Great joy on finding books once again – this can be wonderful.
Great shock on finding boring or embarrassing books.
Pause for thought and reminiscence on finding books associated with something in your life, far away and long ago.
Questions to help you weed
How obvious to say that your book collection is made up of individual books! Yet being aware of this is the way to weed. The journey starts with a single step: looking at a single volume.
Questions to have in mind as you are weeding books:
- Is this book a duplicate?
- Is it out of date? Learning moves on. To encourage you, I recently let the 1999 encyclopaedia with the broken spine go.
- Do I feel I ought to read this book but I don’t want to? Most of us probably have books like this.
- Do I have this book because someone else liked it or wanted me to read it? If I don’t like it or don’t want to read it, then it’s time for it to go.
- Is this a book that was so-so and I’ll never read again? Or even a book that was simply bad? I’ve read quite a few of these and it’s one of the reasons I use the library so much.
- Is this book part of my life now? Sometimes it’s very difficult to answer this question and sometimes it’s simply blindingly obvious.
- Is it beautiful? I have books I keep because of their hand-drawn illustrations.
Where does a book go when it leaves?
My advice is to get the books out of the house as soon as possible but to where? When it’s time for a book to leave, where does it go? Here are some possibilities.
Pass it on to a friend or member of the family, and ask them to pass it on too.
Most charities have shelves of books in their shops. Some charities have specialist bookshops where books are sorted by knowledgeable volunteers.
Universities, colleges, schools and other libraries may accept specialist books or collections.
You could try to sell your books through a trade-in site such as We Buy Books, Ziffit or Music Magpie.
Almost two million people worldwide use BookCrossing. It’s the act of releasing your books ‘into the wild’ for a stranger to find, or via ‘controlled release’ to another BookCrossing member, and tracking where they go via journal entries from around the world.
At the end of the line, some books are for pulping. Sad, perhaps, but true.