I love, love, love books. The wikipedia entry for bibliophilia should include a picture of me with my nose in a book. I read between 10 to 20 books a month, and I almost exclusively read non-fiction. If money were no object, I would have a home library complete with rolling ladders, comfy leather chairs, and shelves full of my favorite books.
Money has not yet started to grow on the trees in my yard, so I don’t have the luxury of having a dedicated room for a home library. Until then, I have had to accept that I cannot keep every book I’ve ever read or hope to read. So, how do I decide which books stay and which books go? I follow these simple rules:
- Don’t keep more books than you can fit on available bookshelf space. If a book doesn’t have a safe place to live, you’re not treating it with the respect it deserves.
- Don’t keep books for the sole purpose of impressing other people. This rings true in business offices, too. Unless you’re a British literature professor, there is no reason to have the complete works of Shakespeare on your office bookshelves. Potential clients will wonder why you’re spending your time reading Macbeth instead of focusing on their case.
- Get rid of any book you’ve read, don’t plan on reading or referencing again, is in the public domain, and can be found in its entirety online. That’s right, I’m talking about ditching your Dover copy of The Scarlet Letter.
- If you live near a public library or a used bookstore, try to think of these places as an extension of your personal collection. Also, now that so many libraries have free audio books to download, using the library is in some ways more convenient than a personal collection.
Beyond these rules, I’ve found that books are best evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes, if a book is in bad shape, I’ll recycle it. If I’m on the fence about getting rid of a book, I’ll go online and find out how much it’s selling for on Powell’s — if it’s selling for less than $5, I’ll get rid of it — if it’s selling for more than $15, I will usually hold onto it. I also have found that I have difficulty parting with books that have beautiful bindings, so these books I have to scrutinize more diligently. And, don’t forget to ask yourself these vital questions each time you finish reading a book.
After deciding which books should go, there are many resources available to you. I’ve used or read positive reviews about the following services: Powell’s, my local used bookstore, half.com, PaperBackSwap.com, donating to the local library used book sale, BookMooch.com, BookScouter.com, and donating to charities that want specific types of books (nursing homes, literacy programs, etc.).
Good luck sorting through your books, and stay tuned for next week when I’ll discuss how to organize the books you’ve chosen to keep.