I may have a bit of a book problem…


Looks nice, doesn’t it? I wanted to share some photos of the books I just sorted and shelved. I just moved in with my partner, which involved packing and transporting hundreds and hundreds of books, and trying to find room for them in our new place. Sadly though, the shelves pictured represent only about half of my total collection, and I really would rather not have to buy more bookcases.

Using my Goodreads account and some good old fashioned guessing, I would estimate that I have somewhere in the realm of 800 physical books… and I’m not sure this includes things like comics, textbooks, reference books, and so on. My partner has at least half this number himself, so our living room is totally stuffed, and I still have boxes of books I haven’t opened yet — as well as more boxes and shelves at my parents’ places!

cubeshelvesIt’s getting a bit ridiculous, frankly. My reading rate isn’t the greatest. I’m getting through 30 or 40 books a year, and I’m buying a similar number of new books each year. So I know for certain that there are books I’ve bought that I’ll never get around to reading, as well as ones I’ve read that I’m holding onto that I’ll never get the chance to re-read.

It’s time to do a big cull, I think. It’s going to be heartbreaking in some cases, and I’m worried my hoarder tendencies will rear their head when it comes time to sort through them. But I’m making a few goals and rules:

  • First, my short-term or “starter” goal is to donate 50 books to my city’s next big charity book fair, which is in February.
  • Then, I aim to cull at least another hundred by the end of 2016. I’ll offer all the titles up to friends first (a list on Facebook, giving people a month or so to claim books) before I take them to donate. Trying to sell most of these books is more trouble than it’s worth.
  • Easiest to get rid of will be second-hand paperbacks and crappy mass-market books, especially novels. These I can easily find in a library or get on Kindle.
  • Tougher will be newer books, especially ones I’ve bought in hardcover. I’ll have to decide which are really worth keeping around in physical form rather than going the Kindle route. I’ll have to set aside the price factor of some of them — they may have been expensive, but that money is long spent. It’s in the past, I need to let go.
  • I have more than a few duplicates too, from an era when I was terrified I would read a book to pieces and not have a backup copy. You can see multiple copies of some of China Miéville’s books in the second photo, for instance. But there’s no point in keeping these duplicates now that I have every Miéville book on my Kindle. I can get ebook backups for most of my favourites now!
  • Books exempt from my cull: ones by my favourite authors, ones I’ve bought recently that I know I’ll get to soon, collector’s editions, art and reference books, signed books, rare/out-of-print books.
  • Books I buy in the future will, more often than not, be on Kindle. This counts especially for things like novels, which are just straightforward pieces of text. When books have nice layouts and images and so on, that’s when it’s worth getting a physical copy.

I don’t intend to go minimalist, though. I’m still happy to have a good 300-400 books sitting around that I really love. But I need to justify their permanent place in my life. The day I can fit everything I own onto the shelves pictured above, I will be satisfied. (Okay, maybe I’ll treat myself to one more bookcase from Ikea…)


One comment

  1. Good luck with your cull. Hope it isn’t too heartbreaking.

    I was just staring at the picture and amusing myself with a game of “which books can I recognize by sorta blurry spines.” Funny how House of Leaves was the first one that popped out at me, then the Culture series, then the Saga hardback.

    I have all the shelves that are ever going to fit in our house up, and so my basic rule is that when those are full, I get rid of books. So far they aren’t full yet, though if I successfully manage to read all my unread books in 2016, they will be. But I do feel like I’ve gotten better at knowing which books I am going to want to reread and which are just taking up space. Still, I am not always right, and it feels so silly to have to buy something twice because I was so anxious to declutter. But that is always the rub with this sort of thing.

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