I Murdered My Library: A Kindle Short review

Author Linda Grant needed to downsize her personal library when she moved from a place with all sort of nooks and crannies for books — plus some specially installed bookshelves — to a flat with much less space. (Also, her real estate agent saw her huge number of books and told her something had to be done in order for the house to sell.) She wrote a Kindle Short entitled I Murdered My Library about the experience, which perfectly captured the mixed feelings so many people have when they consider downsizing their book collections.

On the one hand, there was a lot of sadness about giving up a library she’d been building since she was a little girl. Since the author is British, American readers may not recognize some of the specific authors and titles she collected back then, but the passion for books is definitely recognizable.

However, there were certainly some issues with that book collection. Some were books she had no need for, such as multiple copies of her own novels, sent to her by her publisher. She had those books in various translations, too. She also mentions the “books I did not particularly care for, but kept anyway” and the “non-fiction which I kept in the era before the internet” in case she ever needed specific nuggets of information.

And then there was the problem with the too-small type:

No-one told me. No-one said, “In the future, you will squint and screw up your face and try to decipher those words you once read so easily. Not because you are going blind, but because in the middle of you life your eyes have betrayed you. They are no longer fit for the purpose of reading.”

Grant is no technophobe, and she embraced her Kindle as a way around the print-size problem. And she reveled in how much easier it was to carry the Kindle than a 900-page book, and how nice it was to have “a library in my pocket.” But while new releases are available in digital format, a lot of backlist books (and much of her collection) are not available yet. And then there was the problem when her Kindle died at the start of a four-hour flight, leaving her with only the airline magazine to read.

Grant also realized that keeping all her many books didn’t make sense, if she was being logical about it all. As she noted:

I’m not going to re-read these books before I die. I am just bequeathing my nephew and his wife the heavy task of removing them at a later date.

What did she do with the books she decided wouldn’t make it to her new home? She gave the multiple copies of her own books to reading groups, charging just for the price of postage. She gave the translated books to libraries. As she noted, “Polish speakers in the London Borough of Haringey now have a choice of books: by me, or by me.” And the rest got donated to an Oxfam shop, where the sale benefits the charity.

But still, the empty shelves bothered her.

In my fear of not having enough room in my new flat for my books, I had got rid of far too many. The truth was, I now had empty shelves. Fewer books than space for them. …

There are not enough books here. The sight of the bare shelves shames me. What have I done?

At just 28 pages, this is a quick read and one that many people struggling with overflowing bookshelves will appreciate.

9 Comments for “I Murdered My Library: A Kindle Short review”

  1. posted by Jill on

    Can anyone suggest a guide on how to de clutter our docs on line? Thanks

  2. posted by Pat on

    Oh, how I can relate! I recently remodeled my home office. I love it. It looks great and it is so much more functional. But there is less room for my books. Now that shouldn’t be a problem because I recently retired and many of my books pertained to my former profession. Although these were books that I was highly unlikely ever to read again, they were closely tied to my identity as a psychologist. I downsized about a third of the books, so that the remainder fit in the space, but I know that I will have to periodically cull these shelves so that my sons don’t get stuck with the job of getting rid of them in the future. I expect (hope?) that it will get easier as I go along.

  3. posted by Kwame on

    I needed this, so thank you!

  4. posted by Liz on

    Last year, my laptop failed to connect to the internet – a bad board or something. My option was to send the machine away and someone would decide if it was repairable (and I would get it back sometime in the future) or get a check. I opted to buy

  5. posted by Caroline on

    Thank you for this. It touched my heart and certainly mirrored my own love of books.

  6. posted by Liz on

    OOPS, I was posted in mid thought – as I was saying, I opted to buy another laptop, downloaded all of the files to an external hard drive, and reloaded the files to the new laptop in one “working folder”.

    I then thought about organization and that’s been discussed here. I opted for folders (personal, business, organizations). I then created subfolders according to needs or just went by year. As I needed a file, I retrieved it from the working folder and put it in my new organization structure. I work to keep the new section clean and organized. And that’s what I back up.

    When I have time, I go to the old files and look at them. It was amazing how many I could delete. And there were many I could not open since I had not converted the file whenever I got the newest version of the software. This was the least stressful way of cleaning up since I I knew that with time, the older files will mean nothing and will be easier to delete. Something I worked on last month, I might feel I need to save that doc. Something six years ago, no to much.

    Properly naming files is key to good digital organization.

  7. posted by Glenna on

    I have always had a lot of books; I am an avid reader due to my upbringing and later became a Bible teacher. One cross country move, the moving company said it would be cheaper to ship the books ahead than for them to pack up and move them. That got me thinking. Arrive E-readers. Huzzah! Two moves ago after buying a Nook (sorry – competition), I ditched much of my library. It was hard, but the author is so right when she says she can carry so many more books. I can even download Bible reference books in the translation I normally use. I can archive anything after reading and I can download documents to bring up and read when I have time. I carry it everywhere so when I have to wait, I can pull it out and use the time more efficiently. It is the best tool I have ever had for uncluttering. As you can tell, I am a big fan!

  8. posted by Cindy May on

    I am just about to go through my library too. I both look forward to and dread it at the same time, but it’s just another step I have to take in order to make changes in my life – including being honest with myself about the chances of me actually reading the probably 100+ books on my overflow shelf. Although I’ve always been an avid reader, I have come to realize that I much prefer more active pursuits these days, so I spend a lot less time sitting around. I hope to be able to get digital versions of many of the books I will discard. Failing that, if my local library carries them, that will give me some reassurance as well. Where will I take my culled books? Probably to Half Price Books (where I recently learned you can actually get paid in cash and don’t have to just use the credit right then and there).

  9. posted by G. on

    I had no issues getting rid of the fiction books years ago. What gives me grief is cookbooks, sewing & needlework books, garden books, etc. The cookbooks should be less of a problem than they are, because it’s so much easier to go online and enter a few ingredients to find new recipes than slog though the books. Also they are often rated by a number of people, so there’s a bit of indication on the success rate of the recipe. And like Ms Grant found, the old books are not available electronically. And even if they were, something about having to buy them again, when they are sitting there on my shelf just makes frugal self screech with horror.

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