Sunday, March 18, 2012


We're having a clear-out. We have a roomy, if crumbling, three-bedroomed home, and just the two of us have rather spread out to fill the available space. We need to clear out, tidy up, redecorate in places.

But what we really need to reduce is..... I'm sorry folks, but it's the number of books we have. We have books in nearly every room, and the two landings are groaning with them. It's almost at the stage where you have to shuffle sideways to pass by. We don't have shelf space for them all. We very nearly don't have FLOOR space for them all...

I'm not usually a book-discarder. I'm more of a book hoarder. I remember in my teens being horrified when my parents went through a similar process. "How can you give this away?! It's a BOOK!" But it's okay, we're making space for good reasons, so I can reconcile this with my bibliophile soul....

(eBooks is a whole other story, but there's a difference between the books I want to share my phone with, and the books I want to share my home with.)

But the trouble is how to choose. What actually makes a keeper? Must I keep this signed copy, even though my reading tastes have changed and I'm never likely to read their work again? Do I keep this book, because I sent friends running to buy it when I was signing my first book at the RWA mass literacy autographing? Do I keep this book, even though I don't much like it, because I love this particular author?

As a reader and a writer with a lot of writer friends, the lines between book-that-is-a-story and book-that-is-the-book-of-my-friend become very blurred, and influence the decision-making of decluttering a lot.

Some choices are easy. Close friends' books (which currently fill two shelves, hooray!) are no-brainers. There are some authors (but VERY few, as it turns out) that I will keep all their books because they are ALL magnificently good. Other authors where a particular series really caught me, and will continue to be re-read. The Mary Stewarts, the D L Sayers, the Terry Pratchetts... those collections stay in their entirity, of course, including duplicates (because you never know when a book might get damaged!) There's one four-shelf collection of the 'complete works of' which I'm slightly embarassed about, but I'll keep because they're great comforters, I read them a lot when I'm not feeling well, and, well, I like them. So there.

While mining my book collection, I've found large seams of books that I haven't read in years, that I wouldn't really choose to read any more, but that have fond associations with places or people. But they are people I'm never likely to meet or talk to again, and places I may never go again. They belong to another "me". So, although it feels a little bit like I'm giving away a part of myself, they've got to go. I'll keep a few, just as reminders, but I can't make space for a book in my home just because it has a whisp of fond memory attached.

So. Keepers, then, it turns out, are the books of close friends, books I will read again many times, and a few, a treasured few, that fly the flag for past times.

What are keepers to you? How do you choose what to keep, and what to pass on?


  1. That's really tough, Anna! I hate having to part with books, like you said, it's like letting go of a part of yourself. I've tried to be stricter with myself lately though and only keep books I really, really liked or those written by friends. At the moment I still have some shelf space, but I dread the day it runs out ...
    Good luck with the decluttering!

  2. It's so hard...with all the moving I've had to do it so many times...go with your gut-I've had to. good luck

  3. Always the hardest decision for me. I hate culling my books.

    My poor husband is certain our whole house will one day tip over and sink into the proverbial swamp, like the castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, because of all the bookshelves in my writing room.

    All my shelves are stacked 2-deep, and like you, I have duplicates of my Mary Stewarts and a few others -- not so much as back-ups, but in case I meet someone who's never read her before, so I've got a book handy to share... (I love sharing my favourites).

    As for what to keep? I'm a sentimental pack-rat, so I always keep books by my friends, or books given to me by my family. And ones that have been on my shelves for so long it would seem wrong to NOT have them there.

    And I still have a few spots left where I could fit a new bookshelf, I think....

  4. It IS hard, Christina. But oddly, now I've decided it needs doing, it's easier than I thought it would be.

    Thanks for the good luck wishes, Liz! I'm glad I'm in good company.

    That's dangerous thinking, Susanna! Another bookshelf.... *g* I've actually lost bookshelf space, because of a new loft hatch (long story). But it seemed to me that it had got to the stage I wasn't reading books because I couldn't GET to them... time to organise, at the very least!

    I now have two large boxes of books to 'rehome'.