Author Topic: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?  (Read 395 times)

Captain Cranky

Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« on: March 18, 2019, 06:23:01 PM »
Like the title says, have any of you managed to get rid of all or most of your paper books? Over the weekend I built a new large bookshelf to accommodate some of mine better and just realised I still don't have enough room. Part of me feels like piling every last one of them up in my car and dumping them at a second hand (thrift) shop, the other part of me is really struggling with the idea of getting rid of any of them. I've managed to cull about thirty, which is not a lot and I'm still fighting the urge to put them back on the shelf. Why is it so hard? I have books I know I will never read again or never even got around to reading, but they look so pretty on my shelves I can't seem to part with them. I almost feel like they have become such a part of who I think I am, by getting rid of them I'd be cutting out an important piece of my identity. Sounds a little silly I suppose... Having said that, I'm also tired of stuff. For the most part I don't struggle with de-cluttering but this..have any of you done it? How did you let go? Am I a bookworm if I don't have lots of (or any) books? Should I just line the walls with towers made of books and weave a path through them?
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Tom Wood

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Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2019, 06:35:03 PM »
Move to a new place to live. You will shed belongings like crazy. Moving books is so miserable that you will happily get rid of them.
 

VanessaC

Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2019, 06:51:49 PM »
I did a massive cull of books before moving house - as Tom says, it's a great incentive to get rid of things.

I lived in a flat that was stuffed with "stuff", including a lot of books.  The clutter was really depressing to live with. I went through my book collection and kept anything I felt really attached to - things I had just loved the first time round, things I had read more than once, a few beautiful hardbacks (I mostly have paperbacks) and shed the rest.

For me, it was liberating, and a win-win as the local charity / second hand book shop were happy to take boxes of books.

I should say, this wasn't all at one go - I was also doing a cull of other "stuff" and I found that it made me happy for a while, and then I had to pause because it became stressful, give myself a break, and go back to it.

I think that as long as you love your books and have space for them, there's no harm in keeping them. 

As an alternative, after moving house with my much-reduced book collection, I then got a puppy, who kindly chewed through about another dozen books for me. Another option to consider??  :icon_mrgreen:
 

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notthatamanda

Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2019, 08:44:31 PM »
For me it was to have somewhere to put the baby, so that may not apply here.  :icon_cool: I give books to the library.  They have a great sale once a quarter and I'll buy one to two huge bags of books for twenty bucks.  Most of us in town treat the sale as a rental program, they go right back once they've been read.

It's hard for me to get rid of stuff too.  I tell myself once it is gone I won't remember it in six months.  Also, having helped clean out older relatives houses, and watched I don't know how many friends do the same, I don't want to leave my kids a great big pile of stuff.  They won't want it or need it and they won't thank me for it.

I still love the idea of rooms and rooms filled with built in bookshelves, and tons of books, but on a day to day basis it doesn't bother me at all that I don't have that.
 

Captain Cranky

Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2019, 09:59:11 PM »
I love the idea of rooms with floor to ceiling bookshelves too but ugh, the work. Moving is not an option right now, and frankly, I don't want to until I can buy a property. I love the property I'm on (I'm in the country) it's just the house is small and I guess I'm really starting to feel it closing in a little. I've carted my books with me everywhere anyway, moving has never stopped me lol. My house isn't cluttered at all by the way, I can't afford it to be in such a small space, I'm a tidy person. I guess I've just found myself wondering why I'm so attached to what is essentially bundles of cardboard and paper, that I will build furniture and shift the house around to accommodate them, but the thought of letting go of them gets me a a bit anxious. I dunno, maybe I'm actually anxious about something else and I'm taking it out on my poor books lol?

I've put some in the car ready to take away tomorrow, I'll try and cull a little further. I managed 34 books  :icon_rolleyes: I'm not sure why it feels so personal, and I actually feel a little silly for posting about it. I guess I just needed to know if I was the only one struggling with it, it seems like such a ridiculous thing to be stressing over  :dizzy
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VanessaC

Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2019, 10:50:23 PM »
It's not ridiculous at all. (Sorry, I realised after I'd posted my response before that I hadn't really answered your question.)

Books, for me, are doorways into other worlds - I still remember realising as a child that these little pieces of magic were created by people, and right then and there knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. (Still working on it.)

So, I absolutely understand the difficulty in parting with books and I don't think it's silly to be attached to the bits of paper and cardboard at all.  It's not actually about the paper, it's what the paper holds and represents - I've actually kept some of the books my puppy chewed even though they aren't readable any more.

The books I've kept are often the ones which have left an impression, where I just have to look at the spine or the cover and find myself smiling in memory, or remember vividly a scene or dialogue or simply the sense of immersion in that particular world or story. A lot of them I will never read again, but I don't want to part with the physical copy because the memories are so vivid.
 

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123mlh

Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2019, 11:43:00 PM »
I thought I was moving out of the country at one point and shed about a thousand books. (Kept about 500.) I still to this day think of those books that I gave up and miss them. And have more than once wanted to loan someone a book only to realize it was part of the great book purge.
 

Maggie Ann

Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2019, 11:47:16 PM »
I moved from 2200 S.F. to 1K S.F. In the large house, I had a dedicated library room with five tall book cases and several smaller ones and most of the shelves were double stacked with books. I love reading and having all those books gave me a sense of security like I'd never run out of books to read.

Then came the move. I squeezed in the five shelf book cases, the three shelf and one of the two shelf. Having to unpack all those books made me take a hard look at my collection. All my hardback Robert Ludlum's went first. I was way past reading his genre and knew I'd never read them again. Other action/adventure stories went next, keeping only the few that I really did read over and over. Then there were the impulse buys, some of them DNF, that I also knew I would never read again. Several romance authors went next because they were books that I'd read through, but the stories never spoke to me. All of these books were donated.

I absolutely could not get rid of Agatha Christie or Rex Stout. The sad thing was that I wouldn't be able to read those paperbacks again because they were so old that the price on the spine was 50c or 75c and by now they were unreadable. Still, couldn't get rid of them.

What finally helped the most was being able to buy the ebooks to replace my favorites. Even so, the Christie and Stout books sat on the shelves long after I had the ebooks. It wasn't until this last move some ten years later that I was able to toss them. I think what made it so hard was that they were in such bad condition, I couldn't even pass them on.

With all of that tossing and donating and ebook replacement, I still have a two shelf book case dedicated to my favorite author, Susan Howatch. I actually have her books in hardback, paperback and ebook plus the few available in audio. I'm listening to one of them now. I have another shelf with Harry Potter in both hardback and paperback plus the ebooks and the audios.

I have another five shelf book case in my bedroom with books that haven't been kindleized that I do reread. I've kept the Angelique series, but again, these books are so old I'm afraid to even handle them. They have started to become available but only the first two books in the series and only in French. I live in hope.

No, it's not easy to get rid of these books even though I may never read them again. Being a reader is a large part of who I am and every time I send a load of books out the door, it's like losing some of myself. My books are old friends and it is a comfort to see them on the shelf.
           
 

cecilia_writer

Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2019, 11:51:22 PM »
I'm in the middle of a great de-cluttering exercise brought on by various factors, some outside my control, and on Friday I managed to give the de-clutterer (a woman with the patience of a saint) about 20 books to take away to the charity shops. There are still lots left though! And underneath the ones I could bear to part with, I found the Lonely Planet guide to Europe, as well as a rail map of Europe, both of which I was so delighted to see that I am sure I will be travelling again soon. So there was something nice about the session after all.
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Vijaya

Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2019, 12:03:59 AM »
I feel your pain, CC. We moved across the country about 8 years ago and into a much smaller home so had to give away about half of our home library. I still miss some of those books because I'm a re-reader. Luckily, we have a public library within walking distance so it's been great. If you have the space and enjoy having them, what's the harm? Last year, when my son left for college, I turned one wall of his room into the adult nonfiction section. Suddenly, my fiction and poetry and children's books have room to breathe :) See pics in this post: https://vijayabodach.blogspot.com/2018/03/on-retreats-reading-and-education.html

The shelves are all overly-full now and I do have to make space on regular basis still because the college books for my son are keepers. It is definitely a struggle not to be attached to our books.

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Bill Hiatt

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Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2019, 01:28:29 AM »
I'd say whether (and how much) to pare down is a question of what will make you happy.

Over the years, I've pared down by a small number of books, but I've kept the vast bulk of them. I'm sure interior decorators would cringe, but every empty wall space in the house has its book case. Most of them have two layers of books. I got some wonderful real wood ones that have space for three layers. About 11 years ago, I made my patio (which I really didn't use) into a room, partly for general storage, but the walls are all lined with book cases.

Aside from being an avid reader, I think I have  the collector's gene. My parents were both collectors, in particular my mom, who ended up with a huge glass collection. I've been a book collector from when I was young. By the time I was in college, I could do research papers without leaving home. (This is before the internet was really a thing.)

My continuous expansion slowed considerably with the advent of ebooks. Now I buy in ebook format unless there isn't one available.

My reading tastes are eclectic, and I never know what I might want to read or reread. Fantasy, science fiction, horror, literary fiction, literary criticism, history, biography, politics, theology, comparative religion, mythology, art--all are well-represented. I probably could get rid of the education books I accumulated while I was teaching, but the reality is those wouldn't be big sellers for a thrift shop. I am about to get rid of the out-of-date books on software and other aspects of computer technology. (So I'm not completely irrational about books.)

All of that said, if I found staring at the books depressing, I'd pare down more. I find it calming instead. Their presence isn't hurting me in any way, so you know what? They're going to stay. I also think about the good times I had (in the old days when book stores and used book stores were more plentiful) accumulating the collection. A lot of times, I can pick up a book and remember which long-gone book store it came from and how I felt when I first bought it. I also think about how hard many of them would be to replace. I don't think I have anything a rare book collector would faint over, but there are certainly a lot that are long out-of-print and essentially irreplaceable. (I think the oldest one is an 1868 campaign biography of Horatio Seymour, but I have a fair number from the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. But even much more recent ones are often out-of-print.

There's one final consideration. Two of my heirs are avid readers. I'm only 62, so that's a far-off consideration, and I'm sure they're not going to be interested in everything, but it's hard to say which ones they might want.

Of course, that's me. If your books make you on balance more unhappy than happy, then by all means pare as much as feels comfortable. On the other hand, as Vijaya says, "If you have space and enjoy having them, what's the harm?"


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elleoco

Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2019, 05:09:58 AM »
I donated and just plain threw out every book in my house except reference books and half a dozen series that I reread every so many years. Haven't bought a paper book except two reference books since I got my Kindle (2008?). It's a pleasure to live without piles of books around the house, a few under the bed every time I look there, etc. I hated dusting bookshelves and still do but at least there aren't that many bookshelves any more.

Since I have a cheap streak, I was sure I'd never buy ebook versions of the beloved books I kept, but more and more I'm doing just that. Every time I see a Dick Francis or Tony Hillerman ebook with the price lowered to something reasonable, I grab it. A couple times when I wanted to reread something I only have in paperback, I realized I didn't want to struggle with the small type, bought the ebook and tossed the paperback.

The main reason I kept books to start with was so as to have things to reread. I live in a pretty rural area and never kept a big TBR pile. I'd buy a couple of books on a trip to the store, read them right away, and then need to find a reread if I wanted to read during a snowstorm, late at night, or when I just didn't want to drive to town. Now I have the world of books always available via Kindle, and I always paid more to get a 3G Kindle, not just wifi.

Guess I'm just one of the thorough, passionate digital converts.

Vijaya

Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #12 on: March 19, 2019, 05:28:05 AM »
"Guess I'm just one of the thorough, passionate digital converts."

elleoco, I definitely like never running out of stuff on my kindle but I still find myself buying paper copies of favorite books on the kindle. I still print the best pictures to keep in an album. I like the security of a book even if the technology changes.

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Tom Wood

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Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2019, 05:42:30 AM »
This one never gets old:


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Hover text: I'm happy with my Kindle 2 so far, but if they cut off the free Wikipedia browsing, I plan to show up drunk on Jeff Bezos's lawn and refuse to leave.
 

Bill Hiatt

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Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #14 on: March 19, 2019, 05:53:52 AM »
I donated and just plain threw out every book in my house except reference books and half a dozen series that I reread every so many years. Haven't bought a paper book except two reference books since I got my Kindle (2008?). It's a pleasure to live without piles of books around the house, a few under the bed every time I look there, etc. I hated dusting bookshelves and still do but at least there aren't that many bookshelves any more.

Since I have a cheap streak, I was sure I'd never buy ebook versions of the beloved books I kept, but more and more I'm doing just that. Every time I see a Dick Francis or Tony Hillerman ebook with the price lowered to something reasonable, I grab it. A couple times when I wanted to reread something I only have in paperback, I realized I didn't want to struggle with the small type, bought the ebook and tossed the paperback.

The main reason I kept books to start with was so as to have things to reread. I live in a pretty rural area and never kept a big TBR pile. I'd buy a couple of books on a trip to the store, read them right away, and then need to find a reread if I wanted to read during a snowstorm, late at night, or when I just didn't want to drive to town. Now I have the world of books always available via Kindle, and I always paid more to get a 3G Kindle, not just wifi.

Guess I'm just one of the thorough, passionate digital converts.
Despite my vast paper collection, I too prefer ebooks. Had the technology arrived sooner, I would have purchased mostly ebooks, reserving paper for the things that weren't available any other way. As it is now, my collection is the exact opposite until recent years.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2019, 06:18:54 AM by Bill Hiatt »


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Anarchist

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Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #15 on: March 19, 2019, 06:06:06 AM »
When the Kindle made its debut, I thought "I'm a paper guy. I love print books. I can't read stuff on a little device like that."

Then I bought a Kindle. Weeks later, I chucked nearly all of my print books. I've since repurchased many of them for the Kindle.

I thought I'd miss 'em. But out of sight, out of mind.

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Captain Cranky

Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #16 on: March 19, 2019, 08:28:51 AM »
Thanks everyone for the replies, it's nice to know I'm not the only one who feels this way about books :-)

So I've slept on it, and I think I'm at a point where I value the space and the room to breathe more than owning the books and what they say about me as a person. I'm going to whittle them down to the point that everything fits on one bookshelf, with a little space. I'll keep the stuff I absolutely love, and the books I'm conflicted over will have their names put on a list to purchase in ebook format if I find I miss them. I've only bought a handful of paper books over the past couple of years anyway due to space restrictions and the convenience of kindle/kobo, so it's time to let go. It's just stuff right? Books only have the meaning I attribute them, and accommodating them is causing more tension that joy right now..

 :icon_sad:
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She-la-te-da

Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #17 on: March 31, 2019, 05:08:26 AM »
I've done it a few times, and it's not easy. There's still "something" about paper books that makes me want to keep them. I'm currently decluttering and rearranging the house (two of my kids left home), and I pulled a bunch of books out to dust off and get them ready to donate. Then middle son came and started checking some of them out with an app he has, and it turns out some of the books are worth something. I guess I'll see if he'll put them online for me, we can work out a fee. Still, the books are here, so I didn't make much progress.

The first time I did a big cull was due to financial reasons. I had to sell a bunch of stuff to a used bookstore for grocery money. Turns out my Andre Norton collection was in demand. I hated giving them up, but the boys had to eat. :(
I write various flavors of speculative fiction. This is my main pen name.

 

Captain Cranky

Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #18 on: March 31, 2019, 09:36:23 AM »

The first time I did a big cull was due to financial reasons. I had to sell a bunch of stuff to a used bookstore for grocery money. Turns out my Andre Norton collection was in demand. I hated giving them up, but the boys had to eat. :(

I feel for you on that one, I've had some rough times times too, you do what you have to

For what it's worth, I got rid of a lot of books, and mostly kept my fantasy, some textbooks, and my books on lore/gods/celts etc.

I drove them around in the boot of my car for a good week or two before I needed the space, and then took them into a local bookstore I never visit because I didn't want to walk out with more books lol. I walked out instead with hundreds of dollars of store credit, and an understanding that whenever I buy books from there, after I'm done they happily take them back again for store credit! Also, the owners were awesome and one of them is a trad pub author so I was there for 90 mins just chatting  Grin Really happy I got rid of the books now, because I can still read paper books without finding a place for them and swap for more. And yes, I've heard of a library Ours sucks unfortunately, there's not a lot to choose from. All in all, I'm pretty chuffed I did it, I feel heaps better!
Just keep your head down and keep on swinging.
 
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Edward M. Grant

Re: Have you managed to pare down your book collection?
« Reply #19 on: April 03, 2019, 02:20:59 AM »
No, but I haven't replaced many of the books I lost when my bedroom flooded just before I moved to Canada. I'm not buying many print books any more, either; mostly just when I can't get them as an ebook, or the print is cheaper. Or when I'd want to be able to read them while the power is out and my batteries are flat.

Longer-term, I want to get rid of as much stuff as I can so I can go and live in a shack in the woods with the bears.