Monday, March 17, 2008

How Many (and Which) Books to Keep?

books in box

Most book lovers have a tendency to keep a huge number of books - more books than they have space for, and books that don't really serve a purpose in their lives any more. Even professional organizers can struggle with this.

Here is how fellow organizer Kate Murrell deals with her books, quoted by permission.
I recently sat down and did the numbers in my own book collection.

I have been divesting my book in serious quantities. Last year was 8 book boxes. Two years before it was 22 book boxes. My conversation with myself went like this:

Q: How many books do you read a year?
A: 100.

Q: How many more years are you going to live?
A: 30 (with a lot of luck). That is 3000 more books to read in my life.

Q: Of the book in your library how many more are you really going to read?
A: Maybe 50.

Q: How many books are really reference that you will really really really go to instead of the internet?
A: Work in progress. Each year I get rid of more.

Q: How many are precious old friends that you just like to have around?
A: Maybe 100.

The books are now read, logged (to prevent repeats; I like to read series) and put directly into a box that will go to the library book sale that year.
For another organizer's rules of thumb, read Susan Sabo.

Related posts:
Organizing Your Bookshelves
Clearing Out the Bookshelves

[photo by illustir / Alper Çuğun]


Anonymous said...

I joined BookMooch(.com) and LOVE it. I list books I'm willing to part with and mooch books I want from others. The only cost is postage.

btw, I've been lurking here via rss for awhile, thought I'd come out and share! I enjoy your tips and the products you suggest are just plain fun to look at!

Jenny, Live & in Color

Jeri Dansky said...

Jenny, thanks for de-lurking. It got me to bop over to your blog, which made some interesting reading. And it's always nice to know who some of the 500+ people are behind the subscriber statistics.

I'm glad BookMooch has worked so well for you!

Joy said...

oh boy, we love the same books, Vinge, Egan, Heinlien, Brin. This year, I started dismantling our collection. First my brother agreed to take my science fiction (whew) and I sold my self-help, and my detective books through work email. I gave away the art books that I wouldn't browse again (and that was quite difficult - but I know, if I want to see an image by X artist, I immediately google him/her).

You see, in 3 years, my husband and I plan to travel around Australia, and I can't take them with me. Lastly, I started frequenting goodreads ( so I could track what i'd read, and what I intened to get out of the library.

Jeri Dansky said...

Joy, how smart to be handling the books now - not waiting until the last minute in 3 years. (That sounds like a wonderful adventure you'll be taking!)

I've begun divesting myself of some art books, too - also realizing that I go to the web for images. Some are keepers,though - like the Hungarian sculptor I discovered while in Budapest, whose work isn't widely available on the internet.

Miina said...

Discovered organizing blogs only recently, and found some favourites, your's included, Jeri ;)
Problem with books is really troubling me now, because I've been growing up with idea, that book is something of a value, that you just can't throw away. My parents bought almost every available book in Soviet times (I live in former Soviet Union country) and though there weren't that many, I now have 2.50x8 metres of bookshelves (insert schocked smiley here). And yes, it is packed tightly with books of all kinds. Been sorting those for some months now and still have problems, wich to keep, wich to drop.
Fortunately, my cat solved problem for at least one pile, when he peed at it, probably to show his disagreement with my organizing :D

Jeri Dansky said...

Miina, I'm so glad to hear you like my blog.

Your story about your cat made me smile. But isn't it funny how we're sometimes relieved when something like this happens and the decision is made for us?

If the books are items you can't easily get again if you change your mind, I might want to err on the side of caution, and move slowly and carefully when deciding what not to keep.

But then again, there's not much reason to keep a book you KNOW you won't ever read or pull out for reference. I don't know what options you have where you live; is there someone you can give them to as a gift, somewhere you can donate them, or somewhere you can sell them (especially if they are valuable, monetarily)?

One of my clients had a good question he asked himself when deciding what to keep: Would I buy this again?