Culling my library

I am a confessed book lover.

Most writers are, I’ve found. If you want to be a good writer you are also a reader. That’s a given.

I am also slightly addicted to buying and collecting books. When I married – that was over 40 years ago – combining my library with my wife’s library created a big problem. She is also a bookaholic, and a hoarder of books like me. In our first year of marriage I built two large bookcases. Problem solved – for the time being. Then came along the children and they soon had their books too and their own bookcases. When they left home the problem was slightly improved; part of my library is now in my daughter’s home in Clare and a few are in my son’s home in Sydney. It’s alright; I’ve read most of those books.

About 5 years ago I bought another 4 bookshelves from a well known furniture chain from Scandinavia. I had fun assembling them and stocking them with books. You see, the problem had grown to a critical stage: there were large piles of books everywhere. Problem solved – or so I thought. Over recent months the situation has reached another crisis point: not enough room on the shelves for new and recently acquired books.

My office has been in need of a drastic makeover for several years. The situation would make any bomb site look tidy in comparison. Time for action, so over several hot days recently – it was too unpleasant working in the garden – I attacked ground zero.

My technique is simple: sort and chuck. (Some unkind people might have suggested ‘slash and burn’ would have been more effective.) I progressively sorted through every item on the shelves. Some items didn’t belong – like dozens of computer disks. It’s a BOOK shelf – not a storage cupboard. Some books were obsolete and went straight into our recycling bin. I don’t need a copy of a guide to Microsoft Windows 95 or Word for Windows 6 for Dummies or even a 1998 Melbourne street directory. I have a more current version of the directory and don’t need another, and the computer books are now many years obsolete.

The trouble was that I have trouble throwing away books. I can give them away, I can let people borrow semi-permanently, I can even sell to a second hand book dealer – but throw away! Never!

I’ve changed.

I have to be ruthless and dispose of any book I will no longer read. Some I want to read again – maybe, so I might keep a few. Over the next year the culling will continue until I have enough room on the shelves for the books I want to read again, or I need to use as reference tools.

Now… what about that huge pile of magazines?

Good reading, and good writing.


2 Responses to “Culling my library”

  1. So many times I have “culled” my book collection only to later go out and rebuy copies of books I’d disposed of.

    My big problem is lack of space to put book shelves – I made a big mistake when I bought a mainly open-plan house: not enough walls for shelving.

  2. Ken Rolph says:

    Some second hand bookshops have been in real trouble over the past decade. Everyone seems to want to give them old books, but no one wants to buy. We are seeing a real quantum leap to a new kind of engagement with bookness. The most books I’ve collected this year have been for my Kindle DX. That takes up little storage space. I have 4 bookshelves in my study and Jan has 3 in her study. We also have small bookcase of videos/DVDs. We are collecting more, but the space is not expanding because we are switching from videos (large cases) to DVDs (small cases).

    Over my life I’ve got rid of many books, which I now regret. But they do come around again. Many become fashionable again and get reissued. On one bookcase I have 3 shelves which contain the unread books. This enables me to handle them better, although I don’t seem to be making a dent in the total.

    Leaving work is a great time to trim down the bookcase. When I gave up computer consulting I gained half a whole bookcase. Jan is soon to give up teaching, so her bookshelfs are about to shrink as well.

    The central problem is getting the time to read the books and absorb them into your thinking. Wish someone could come up with a solution to that.