Books Making the Cut

Last month we listed our medium size house for sale and I moved to our smaller house (a second house that just earned a field promotion to First House).   The real estate agent recommended that not one, not two, but all the bookcases in the “large” house be moved so as to

How to get rid of your books?

Books that made the trip.

make every room look spacious and accommodating. 

Of course, I thought the lack of book cases just made all those walls look naked, but okay, we will haul the five book cases up to the small, tiny house in the mountains. 

Except the bookcases don’t all fit.

By extension, neither will all the decorative, important, favorite books.

Of course I have a hard copy of Spark Joy by Kondo (sitting on my book shelf, and I’m aware of the irony), so I started with that technique.  I picked up each of my books and asked the question:  Will I read you again?  Do I love you?  Did we have a satisfactory relationship? I may not choose to read the whole book again,  but for a bibliophile,  there are so many excuses for keeping a book other than reading it again. So I asked more questions:

Is this volume merely aspirational? (Like keeping a full set of the OED because you could look up a word’s history any moment now.)

Is this part of my brainstorming and research?  (So it represents progress even though none is immediately apparent?)

Is this a reference to subjects I’m interested in?

Does this represent the future?

Does this represent a well-read past?

Is the information in the book already information in my head? 

Is there an on-line equivalent?

Does that matter?

Does the book represent who I want to be?

Does it aid in my work?

Does the adjacent book convey  the information in a stronger or more accessible way?

Am I keeping it because I want to impress my guests who peruse my book shelves? 

Does anyone peruse nowadays?    

Do the books represent travel?

Do they represent what I want to learn about travel or have they already done the job?

Do I need to keep all the Virginia Woolf books or am I kidding myself?  Will I work on a project about her? Or do I know that libraries and collections like the Sitting Room are available and while we are at it,  I have not accessed the Sitting Room even when I lived down the street.   

Is holding full collections of any subject the job of a library rather than me?

Have I touched this book in the last two years?

Only you can answer these questions for yourself and your marvelous collection of books.  And you may be additionally lucky and you will never need to face such a wrenching quandary.  But just in case, here are some of the answers that came to me as I meditated before my towering – too- tall-to-fit-into-the-small-house – altars of books:

I am feeling that the entire cannon of Natalie Goldberg stays.

But the diaries of Virginia Woolf can go. Just the diaries, not the biographies, Vanessa Bell’s sketches, commentaries,  and a handy chart of all the members of the Bloomsbury group and who they slept with.

Whitman stays.

If you majored in English, it is very difficult to let go of any Norton Anthology.

The 19th century stays.

But the 17th century goes.

Copies of my own books stay.

All the poetry books stay.

Some scholarly criticism books, even ones about Whitman and Woolf, go.

Books for classes I no longer teach can go.   

Half the books on self-actualization can go since I’m feeling pretty self- actualized today.

All the diet books can go.  I feel lighter already. 

Art books I love as well as art criticism I still don’t understand, stay.   Shakespeare stays.  Shakespeare always stays.

Some Dictionaries stay.  Yeah, I had to choose.  I love the idea of dictionaries but have gradually released the massive tomes in favor of books about the discovery of dictionaries and what they mean to a population.  I have a partial OED and an American Heritage apps on my phone and computer.   Spell check may be enough for you.  And that’s okay.

I also like Grammarly, the free version.  Which then begs the necessity of collecting multiple grammar and usage books, but I still do.  They stay.

Travel books.  I moved the Lonely Planet books out since they are time sensitive in favor of those heavy massive DK books featuring each country I’ve visited.  They are great visual references both before and after a trip and remind me of where I’ve been, which is immensely satisfying.

But here’s the thing. You wouldn’t take any travel book WITH you.  Just download the latest Rick Steves to your iPad and you’re good to go.

Those ideas took care of about four books, only 589 to go.

As I squinted at the collection.  The lovely, collection built from book stores, library sales, school give aways and yes, Amazon, that I need to reframe my questions.

Who else would benefit from this book?

Once that question was answered, I was able to pack up two Macy bags worth of writing books for my Niece. 

I was able to pack up history books for my brother.

I was able to pack up every mystery book I read and some I’m not sure I read and deliver them all to my mother.

The books that I didn’t give directly to friends,  I packed up and delivered to Friends of the Library and Hospice. Which is like giving them to friends, right?

It was the most satisfying method to re-home my books. 

One last idea:  If you are a writer or a coach, place a sticker on the books you are donating (not to friends, just to the universe in general).  Write  Donated by – name, the name of your book and your web site.  In my case, if someone is interested in a book on writing they may be interested in a writing coach.  If someone is interested in that romance, maybe they would like your romance as well.  It’s a nice way to market and it’s better than nothing.  It will also change the dynamic.  Because I feel like I’m giving out a book to someone who would need it, and you never know who will additionally need your book or your service.

  I have distributed, shared and cleared so I can find the new homes for my collection in clear conscious feeling that their move from my cozy book shelves will not have been in vain.

Now I must find someone who needs a few bookshelves.

This article first appeared in Writers Fun Zone.  

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