Weeding in your books
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How do you decide which ones to keep, throw out paperbacks, get rid of those you never got to read,..? Any tips, comments,...?
Years ago, we had "The Last Whole Earth Catalog." All jokes and japes aside, by stating (somewhere in there) that "Books are tools," "The Catalog" gave what was to me a fresh, new way to look at what I read. At the time, I had never thought of books in that way, but I immediately saw the truth of it. What good is it to keep a broken wrench, a bent screwdriver, a gap-toothed saw, or any "tool" that won't do useful work? Much as I love my books, I see no sensible reason not to treat them as I'd treat any other tool.
Not a crime, but may be a necessity due to considerations of room, money, spousal peace, etc. When you say 'get rid of' of course you don't mean to toss them in the trash. Depending on what they are, you may want to try to sell them (yourself on Amazon or elsewhere, or to a dealer) to fund your habit; or donate them to a library sale or Good Will.
Some things to think about when deciding what to keep:
- will I ever read it again?
- have I not read it yet but expect to sonmday?
- is it a reference or other kind of non-fiction book I may want to refer to in the future?
- does it have some special significance to me due to associations with certain people or events?
- is it part of a series or 'collection' that would be less complete without it?
- does it look good on my shelf?
I'm sure there are other factors that could be adduced...
Then, of course, there is the question of immortality. I can say of most every book I have that "I will read it or reread it some day." "Someday" in that sentence of course means "someday in the next 500 years or so." There, therefore, may be a problem with the "someday" test.
You can imagine the confused looks I get with that.
The problem with the questions in comment #3 is that I would probably say yes to one of the questions for any book in my library. :-)
I have been giving lots of books away (mostly paperbacks) to charity, or the local library. Ans it feels good to see other people borrow a book you donated,...
Lapham also explains how one can tell old money from new money. Old money, when speaking of Frank Sinatra, says "Ohhhhh, what's his name? You know who I mean! That guy who sings." New money, when speaking of paintings by Picasso, says "I'll take two of the blue ones!"
Well, maybe I'm unique but I'm hardly rich and I am surrounded by books that I haven't read (and many that I have read but will probably never get around to reading again).
This once was once arguably rational. ("Arguably" is advised.) You knew your interests. You knew a good-seeming book in one of those fields of interest when you saw one (at least after doing the usual 10 minute evaluation). You knew that "out of print" might well mean "if you ever see this book for sale again, you're extremely luck". So if you saw such a book at a reasonable price, you bought it.
With the rise of the internet and truly national or international booksellers like Abe or Bookfinder, this no longer makes sense. It really makes no sense at all with a lot of the books I bought (in, e.g., history of economic thought) available in digital form at little or no cost. But really old habits are sometimes hard to break. Besides which, there is something about the feel of a nicely kept old book...........
I have 1,247 books on my shelves that I've tagged "tbr". I derive enormous satisfaction from being able to pander to any kind of book-reading mood I'm in by just looking over my shelves or digging around in my LT catalog. ("Hi, my name is Karen and I'm a biblioholic.....")
Of course I always buy more books and they tend to push older purchases down on the priority list.
Every once in a while I simply realize that a book or an author must go. I won't re-read it, daughter won't want it, another book needs the shelf space.... and the older I get the more okay that is.
Also, as much as I collect I am very particular about what books I buy (or take, depending on the situation. A local coffee shop has a wonderful take a book/leave a book shelf). I only buy what I would read, feel a close friend would read, is a handy reference, or looks great. Never drug store romances or anything I wouldn't dream of reading. So getting rid of books has only happened to me... once if ever. Although ending up with books I don't care about has happened. My husband got "how to buy/sell things on ebay" years ago which neither of us has read. I wouldn't mind giving it away if someone asked for it. There are a few others like this in the collection but I'm sure less than 5. If that number started to cause any noticeable clutter I would probably sell them at a used book store.
I have seldom had occasion to regret a book purchased but several times I have deeply regretted not buying a book when it was available. Most books will be available again or are readily available since people bought them in the first place. As popular and disposable reading shifts to ebooks then there will naturally be fewer copies to be resold later on.
I disagree that all books are equally available inexpensively in electronic form. Pre-1923 US publications and some afterward in the public domain and may be available as scanned books or print on demand. Recent books that are popular are likely to be available as ebooks. However, there's a vast swath of books in the middle that are still under copyright but not economically viable to reprint and illegal to scan and freely release. The over-long copyright terms meas that decades worth of books that would be PD I the US now are not.
If some say that it is not necessary to own books because the libraries or Internet will have them, I would counter that they have not looked very closely at what is and is not available there.
When I collect, I gather the items of interest to me and do not have to bend my reading options to what librarians or publishers deem to make available to me.
I've read stories about collectors who buy another treasure and have to sneak it into the house and hide it for several weeks. That way when it is strategically placed on the coffee table and the less-supportive partner asks when that item was acquired, the collector can reply "that old thing? I've had it for a while." If books are important to you, having a supportive spouse is a great boon that should not be understated.
I practically never get rid of books. I buy them because I want them, and either I have not yet read them or I read and enjoyed them (or I read and didn't quite enjoy but it was a classic so it will remain anyway), so why would I want to be rid of them? I love books, I wish I could have every book out there. I do not give up my collection unless I absolutely had to.
I also sometimes swap out copies of books. If I come across a better copy (for example, hardcover as opposed to paperback, better condition, a prettier cover, older / newer), I will often donate my other copy to a book-hungry reader, unless the original copy has some sort of sentimental value.
In fact, I have an entire small bookshelf in my front hall full of "Free Books," which I always tell guests they are welcome to adopt. They are mostly classics, as I find numerous copies of those all the time. Alas, the shelf gets piled up, because here in the land of surfers / tanning bed queens, there aren't many readers to be found.