Clear bad book clutter from your life and bookshelves

Economist Tyler Cowen talks about the sunk cost fallacy and why continuing to read a bad book is unproductive and a waste of time in the article “Closing the book on a bad read” in the July 24 Washington Times:

“People have this innate view — it comes from friendship and marriage — that commitment is good. Which I agree with,” he says. That view shouldn’t, he says, carry over to inanimate objects.

It’s not that he’s not a voracious reader — he finishes more than a book a day, not including the “partials.” He just wants to make the most of his time.

“We should treat books a little more like we treat TV channels,” he argues. No one has trouble flipping away from a boring series.

Do you have a pile of books on your nightstand that have been lingering for months or years because you can’t seem to bring yourself to finish them? Are your bookshelves filled with books that you plan to get to one day but just can’t muster the energy to slog through them? If so, I vote to abandon the books. Say farewell to the bad to make room for the good.

61 Comments for “Clear bad book clutter from your life and bookshelves”

  1. posted by Kristin on

    A book really has to catch my attention right away because I will close the book and never look back. It gets put in the goodwill pile right away. I’ve rented Audio books when I’m on vacation from Cracker Barrel restaurants and if I don’t like the book I return it at the very next restaurant and pick out a new book. (If you keep the book for only an hour or so, they usually let you exchange it.)

  2. posted by Wendy on

    As a librarian I adore books but I also know that I only have so much shelf space so weeding a collection is important. I frequently go though my personal books and evaluate. Those that I don’t want I donate to my local library for resale with the benefit that the sale of the books raises money for the library.

    I will always check a book out of the library first and as a result I buy very few books and those that I do buy I get used. I love used books for vacations, don’t have to worry about losing a library book, and I will leave it at the resort (if they have a library) when done.

    Just a suggestion, if the books smell bad, are growing mold, and severly damaged and unsueable consider throwing away or recycling before donating

  3. posted by Jeff Huber on

    I put down ‘The Tipping Point’ … it just got so boring, repetitive, and long winded. Great advice!

  4. posted by Lisa on

    Our school has a book swap and donates others to needy organizations.

  5. posted by Sandra on

    Before moving across the country last year, I had many, many books to get rid of. I sold many to online (they provide free mailing labels), and ended up with $1K in store credit, but I was running out of time and the books I had left were less likely to be of interest to them. I didn’t have the time or energy to take them anywhere to donate. There were several hundred.

    I had a garage sale just for books and only 3 people came. One of them was a dealer. I offered her the rest of the garageful for $200. She said because of health problems, unemployment, etc., she could only afford $100. With that, I said if she took them all she could have them for free. Win/win. It was hard letting go of these books for free after I’d spent so much money on them, but live and learn.

  6. posted by hadley on

    You can swap books for DVDs, CDs, or more books at

  7. posted by Finish That Bad Book? : on

    [...] of my favorite non-book blogs, Unclutterer,  recently had a post about clearing book clutter, specifically that book you just dread reading [...]

  8. posted by Slackerjo on

    In June 2006 I read a non fiction book and one of the people featured in the book noted that he always wrote a review of every book he read. I thought that was a good idea. So 221 books later, I am still writing my reviews.

    This can be a way of not owning the books (I buy 1-2 books a year) but having a recorded memory about each book.

  9. posted by LJ on

    A few years ago I removed three huge bookcases from my house, along with the books on them. These were books I had not read, but thought I might at some point. The amount of creative energy I found by clearing out that space was amazing.

    There are a lot of good books out there. I try not to waste my time with them anymore. I have many reasons I feel obligated to finish a book (see Reclaim Reading Time By Giving Up) but I really try not to anymore.

  10. posted by Pammyfay on

    Coming to this late…

    But another way to offload your unwanted books is to look in the Yellow Pages or online to see if there’s a used-book store in your area. The one in my neck of the woods–C&W Used Books in Northern Virginia–will buy books, CDs, DVDs, maybe even videos, all depending on what their stock needs are at that time. They will give you either store credit or (a little less) cash. Because one of their stores is in a convenient shopping hub, it’s not a big deal for me to throw some books in the car and make a stop over there when I’m doing other shopping. If they take them, terrific; if not, then I donate them to the Friends of the Library group for their book sale. If the stuff doesn’t sell at their book sale, there are always ‘bulk dealers’ who come and buy the lot for shipping elsewhere. My library, at least, doesn’t get “stuck” holding a bunch of books it seems nobody wants.

    As for ditching a book midway, I think I’ve done this maybe just twice in my life. You never know where that lightbulb moment will go off in a book–everything could tie very nicely together in the 3rd quarter. Also, some books that I thought were so boring at the start, turns out I was just not ready for them at that time. The next year, I pick up the tossed-aside book and realize that it’s a gem. It’s all about timing for me.

    The books I own that I really like, I keep in the guestroom so others can get a taste of them (but I make them leave them there and get them from their own public libraries! I can’t stand lending and not getting them returned!)

  11. posted by On My Mind « Questions and Anchors on

    [...] for the first time- or whether I should send it on its way.  These two posts are what I keep going back and forth between.  Additionally, with regard to the first, I don’t necessarily agree- at [...]

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