07 September 2015

Fine-Tuning Your Personal Library: What to Keep, What to Let Go

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I reduced my personal library by more than half. Since that time, I've been asked for more details on how I decided which books to keep and which ones to give away. Apparently lots of people are interested in this because Florinda of the Three R's Blog was asked the same thing.

So I thought, on this holiday Monday, that I'd try to explain my process. Just to recap, I looked at each book individually, holding it my hands while making my assessment. I did not follow the Kondo test, however, figuring that most books bring me joy.

The Easy Yes

There were several categories of books (often overlapping) that were easy to say yes to.

  • My favorite authors. This is kind of obvious, but it's true, some authors will always live on my bookshelves.
  • Books that moved me when I read them and I still remember why. I don't know about you, but sometimes I loved a book when I read it, but months or years later I couldn't tell you why. If just looking at the book brought back the words or the character or the emotion, I kept it.
  • Books that both Mr. BFR and I loved and that we still talk about or refer to.
The Easy No

When culling my library, I was surprised by how many books I had that I was never going to read or reread.
  • Genres that I just don't read, such as horror.
  • Yellowing, old paperbacks with no sentimental value.
  • Books I simply lost interest in. Most of these were DNFs (did not finish) that I kept, perhaps thinking I'd give them another chance.
  • Books I've read but didn't love enough to revisit.
All the Rest (Unread)

As you can guess, the vast majority of the books I had fell somewhere in the middle of immediate yes or no. Whether the book or ARC was new or old, I went through the following process for each unread book--and, yes, it took some time. (And clearly I need to practice using the drawing tool!)

After going through my flow chart, I used following additional criteria to help me remove a book from my house:
  • If I also had an eGalley, I donated my print copy.
  • If I was only vaguely interested in the book, I checked to see if I could get it from my library or bookstore. If so, I let the review copy go.
  • If the print was really tiny, the ARC was poorly bound, or the leading was small and I could get the book or eBook from my library or bookstore, I donated my print copy.
So there you have it. I hope this clarifies my technique for culling my library. And because I know I'll have to do this again in another year, please share any tips you have for deciding which books you want to keep and which ones you're willing to donate.


(Diane) bookchickdi 9/7/15, 7:35 AM  

We're moving to a smaller apartment, so I'm going through this process now as well. Your posts have been so helpful. I have found that all of the books I have set aside for Christmas gifts I now have to mail early. Merry Christmas!

Unknown 9/7/15, 7:35 AM  

Thanks for sharing your process. I have books on my sheIf that I need to evaluate in order to make some room.

bermudaonion 9/7/15, 9:30 AM  

I've been good at getting rid of read books but still struggle with getting rid of unread ones but have been doing better lately. I need to take a week or so and really go through my shelves again.

Thickethouse.wordpress 9/7/15, 10:26 AM  

I find it difficult, but if I've had a book more than ten years because I consider it worthwhile or worthy but have not read a word of it, I donate it. Someone else may actually read it. There are too many books on my shelves which fall into this category.

Heather 9/7/15, 10:35 AM  

You make it sound so easy!

Tina 9/7/15, 10:56 AM  

I like your method here. I am currently playing a game I call "Let's Pretend We're Moving." You wouldn't believe the number of things I have ready to head out the door.

My big problem was genealogy. Very paper intensive. I am culling that now. As for books, I agree with you, there are series or favorite authors I can't get rid of. I have all of William Stuart Long's Australian series, all 12 books that are out of print. they are staying!

Lindsey 9/7/15, 11:06 AM  

Looks like a good process to me! I too keep my favorite authors and try to think realistically if this is a book I want to re-read or will lend to my friends and family. If it is, it stays. Otherwise it heads to my library for their book sale!

Laurel-Rain Snow 9/7/15, 11:29 AM  

Your process is very well-thought-out, and while I don't analyze mine as closely as you did, I like the part about whether or not I still remember the book and characters.

Favorite authors also are a no-brainer for me.

Thanks for sharing!

Vicki 9/7/15, 12:15 PM  

That's pretty much the same method I've been using. If I have series that I loved or really want to read, even if I need a few to complete it, I keep them. I also keep ones that are signed.

Bree 9/7/15, 1:30 PM  

Tina, I love that "lets pretend we are moving" game. That is a very good way of looking at decluttering your house.

Beth, good process. I'm the same as you in keeping books that create a memory. If I don't remember, chuck it.

Emma Litttlefield 9/7/15, 3:50 PM  

I have to say I'm quite brutal with books. Unless there is a specific reason, eg it was a gift, Ior is a reference book I tend not to keep them. I pass them on to family and friends or the charity shop and we do a book swap at my book club. My shelves are rarely bare but it is mainly with unread books I plan on reading.

Nadine_Feldman 9/7/15, 4:58 PM  

We're downsizing our library and going through this process. My husband is scanning books he'd like to keep (such as travel books). Making room for more!

Heather 9/8/15, 1:46 PM  

sounds like a process that would work for me as well. I would add one more step. I add the books i plan to read to Goodreads and state in the private notes what type of copy I have. If an ebook, which device or format I have. I need to cull a few as i'll be travelling soon and my tiny airport has a book cart. The WestJet staff built a book cart that sits in the departure lounge. It is stocked with books and they are available to all. A small donation is requested that is donated to a chldren's charity. I plan to add some books there. Also there is a Little Free Library down the street and I'll add a few there as well.

Belle Wong 9/9/15, 12:16 AM  

I really really needed this post. I'm moving next month and need to weed my books so I only have those that are truly important to me. But I say that ("truly important to me") but when it comes to sorting time all of a sudden those words have no real value! So I'm going to give your process a try. i think, too, that this: "If I was only vaguely interested in the book, I checked to see if I could get it from my library or bookstore. If so, I let the review copy go" will be the most helpful thing for me!

Daryl 9/10/15, 7:30 AM  

a few years ago i did much the same thing ... i took books off the shelf, cleaned the shelf, then i considered each book ... 90% went to the local public library after i borrowed a friend's shopping cart which i used to transport the books .. since then i have only purchased 2-3 paperback or hard cover books i am thoroughly into my iPad mini as my eReader

ChaosIsAFriendOfMine 9/12/15, 12:05 AM  

These are good tips. I'm trying to get my house ready to put on the market and paring down my books is part of the process. Apparently bookshelves stuffed with books is not good staging! lol

Amanda 9/15/15, 12:54 PM  

I love this method. I was way too ruthless with my books, I fear, and regret that a bit now. Another lesson learned.

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