Monday, April 29, 2013

How to Prune the Book Collection: Two Perspectives

bedroom dresser, with a huge stack of books next to it
Photo by Timothy Valentine, found on Flickr, licensed via Creative Commons

The collective noun for a group of books is a "damn, I'm never going to get around to reading all of these." — Waterstones Oxford Street, via Deirdre

Sue in Australia is a book lover; her husband and daughter also have attachments to books. So, like many book lovers, her collection of books reached the point where there were more books than there was bookshelf space — and she's facing a possible move. So her family just did some culling, and I liked her approach.
Our process was very simple. All three of us were involved in a conveyor line process. There were no recriminations or discussion about what people wanted to keep. If an individual wanted to keep something, it got kept.

I cleaned out a shelf and took a book. If I wanted it, it went back on the empty shelf. If I didn't want it, it went down the line to hubby. If he wanted it, back it went; if not, it went to the Girl. If she didn't want it, it went on the pile to give away.
And here's the best part:
I expected it be a painful process. But because I knew I could keep anything I wanted I found it quite freeing and releasing.
Then there's the author of the blog Room for a Pony, who decided to say "Goodbye, all books that I do not love" — and explained what books fit in that unloved category. Here's a summary:
1. Nay to books that have been sitting on my shelf without a look for well over twenty years. ...

2. Away with books that are old, yellowed, brittle and musty. ... If I love a book that much, I’ll buy a better copy in hardback, because it’s no pleasure to read a book in that condition.

3. Another capital crime is if the print’s so small that only an insect can read it.

4. I’m discarding with great glee anything written in tedious, academic English. I hated it in college, and I hate it now.
That list makes sense to me; I've certainly rid my own shelves of books in all of those categories.

On the other hand, I fully recognize there are some books we will want to keep forever. For a delightful read, see Peter Hartlaub's list of children's books he can never part with.

Related Posts:
Clearing Out the Bookshelves
3 Perspectives: Not All Books Are Keepers
Books: Weeding the Collection
Letting Go of (Some of) the Books
Is It Time to Bid Adieu to Some of Your Books?
Loving Books and Letting Go
Weeding My Own Book Collection
Even Book Lovers Can Have Too Many Books


SueBK said...

I feel all film-star-ish. My little blog referenced, not just by 'someone else', but by Jeri :-) Thank you.
I realise now that part of the freeing process was also that I wasn't trying to guess what the others would want to keep. I could just focus on what I wanted. There was no guilt attached to what I decided I didn't want (or wanted). The fact that I didn't want it didn't mean I was passing judgement on someone else's taste or values.

JustGail said...

Interesting method. I could declutter ALL books from the house by putting DS first in line. Unfortunately. I say unfortunately because he's not a reader of anything.

Jeri Dansky said...

JustGail, perhaps your DS will become a reader later in life.

But the books he doesn't choose to keep would still need to pass from him to all the other family members, who would each get a chance to put them back on the bookshelves.

JustGail said...

blink. blink. DU-OH!! I was thinking the 1st person's discards were out of the house, not passed to the next person.

SueBK said...

JustGail, even though hubby is highly unlikely to read anything that he chose to keep, I could see it ending up very unpleasant if I just ditched everything I didn't want. LOL. The retaliation would likely involve my craft/sewing room; not a happy scene ;-)
No, our process was - if anyone wanted it, it got kept; if no-one wanted it, it got ditched. Instead of discussing each book (and getting bogged down in the inevitable arguments of merits and purpose), we simply passed them down the line, putting anything we wanted back on the shelves.
I'm trying the same technique with the kitchen drawers. The weird and bizarre things we have in those!