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Monday Musings: Book Collecting for Dummies

September 19, 2011

This might shock and horrify you, but I only have two bookshelves in my home.  One is a tall case with five shelves and the other is a little wider and shorter with only three shelves.  Recently both shelves have become full.  That means it’s time to discard some old books!

Sacrilegious perhaps to people like Roger Ebert who pretty much have an entire house full of books.  But I don’t have millions of dollars and I have like 750 square feet to live in, so I try to keep the number of books I own to a minimum.

Recently I thought up the rules for deciding what stays and what goes.  For a book to stay it must qualify in one of these areas:

  1. Sentimental Value:  Basically these are books that have some special meaning for me.  I may never reread them again, but they mean something to me.  For instance, I have this one thriller called “Purpose of Evasion” by Greg DiNallo that I bought back in the late 80s or early 90s.  It’s about a bombing raid conducted against Libya back in 1985 or 1986–you know, the first time we really hated Qadaffi.  One of the planes gets shot down but the pilot survives to make it back to his family in England, but there’s some kind of conspiracy involved.  Anyway, I doubt the writing is all that great but it’s one of the first grown up novels I bought myself, so it has sentimental value.  Also my collections of Lloyd Alexander children’s novels, my complete Robotech novel series, my complete works of John Irving collection, and my nearly complete Discworld novel collection.
  2. I will read it again!:  Sometimes this overlaps with #1 in that many books with sentimental value I’m bound to pull out at some point.  There are some like “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugendies that I keep promising myself I’m going to read it again when I get the chance.  Though it might take a nuclear holocaust like in that Twilight Zone episode with Burgess Meredith before I have time enough at last.
  3. It looks really cool on my shelf:  For instance I have the Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that collects the entire series into a nifty leather-bound book.  I probably will reread those again, but it also looks really spiffy and classy on my shelf.  So if you have a bunch of rare old first editions or something then you might not want to give those away.
  4. No one else wants it:  That would be the proofs of my self-published books.  No one is going to want a bunch of marked-up proof copies of a self-published novel.  They do also have sentimental value.  There are also my travel guides.  I doubt anyone will want a guide to Maine/Acadia National Park from 2005, but I may still want to refer back to something in there.
  5. It cost a fortune!:  Those would be my college textbooks.  They’re big and heavy, but I paid over $100 for most of them, so why just dump them in a box?  Not like a library wants an 11-year-old textbook anyway.  Plus they’re so heavy that by putting them on the bottom of the 5-row-shelf they make a good anchor to keep it weighted down.
  6. I haven’t read it yet!:  This seems obvious, right?  If it’s on my To Be Read pile then I’m not going to get rid of it–yet.

So, those are my rules.  If the book doesn’t really have any sentimental value and/or I’m probably not going to read it again and someone else might want it, then it winds up in a grocery bag.  From there it goes to a local library that helpfully has a donation box by the front entrance.  At least I hope they still do.  That saves a lot of hassle for me and at their next Friends of the Library sale it might go to some old person on dollar bag Sunday.  And I’ll have more room on my shelves for other books!

Win-win for me.

Wednesday Everything You Know About Adverbs is Wrong!!!


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  1. I agree with your list. I’ve gone digital though with all of my book purchases and own about forty new books now between my iPad and my Nook. I’ll never have to throw any of them out as they take up no space at all.

  2. Kindle lets you re-download them onto the new one, as I found out when Amazon replaced my defective Kindle earlier this year.

    I’ve gone e-reader, too, so I only have about 20 books left; I give the rest to Sweetie to sell at a used bookstore so she can go buy frozen mango drinks at Panera, because that’s how marriage works. But I use your rules, mostly: I’ve kept a few John Irvings, my collection of old Doonesbury strips and my leather-bound Calvin & Hobbes (comics are no fun on e-readers), and the copy of “The Golden Compass” I bought for 75 cents at the library to read to Mr F and Mr Bunches someday even though it’ll probably make them atheists.

    Thanks for supporting the Autism bill — you can download your “Mr F” badge & copy to your blog, as you’re no doubt dying to do.

    • I’ll have to remember to do that when I get home. I’ve discovered that WordPress won’t let you cut and paste graphics the way Blogger does. You have to save them and then repost them through their links.

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