Friday, October 21, 2011

The Pruning of the Personal Library

Why prune at all?

If you are anything like me, you value books highly. Why not accumulate all the books you can?

Keeping around books you won't value is wasteful. Someone else might need that book more than you, and wouldn't you rather fill that space with a book you love?


Letting go of books is hard. I'm in the midst of going through all my books and deciding which ones I want to keep and which ones to remove.

In the summer I purged the books I knew right off the bat are not for me - but now I'm going through more carefully to decide which books are the real keepers.


Some guidelines I am keeping in mind:

Books to Remove:

  • Books you don't like
I don't have to worry about this criterion at the moment, since I got rid of all the books I don't like in the summer. But it's the first thing to consider: why give space to a book you don't enjoy reading?

  • Books you don't want to reread
Books you like might fall under this category. For example, I bought a book (for 50 cents - go library book sales!) that was the fourth in a series. I read it and enjoyed it but it's not the kind of thing that stays with you. Someone else will appreciate it more, I'm certain.

  • Books that you're using purely as a status symbol
I'm going to give Walden another shot, but the first two times I tried to read it I couldn't get past the third page. I'm sure I've said this before: no matter how well-acclaimed a book is, no matter how many awards, if it bores you, it isn't a good book.

Since I have little willpower when it comes to books, I've kept more books than let go so far. Here, too, I have some things to keep in mind. Note that categories usually overlap.

Books to Keep:

  • Books you reread frequently
Yeah, there are at least two copies of each Harry Potter book at the library. But I reread them so frequently. (Also, the first book was my seventh birthday gift from my mom. No way am I giving that up.)

  • Books you love
For me, Calling on Dragons (Patricia C. Wrede) and Sea of Trolls (Nancy Farmer) go under this category. Some books you just know without question that you must keep them because someday you will be filled with a sense of nostalgia and you'll need a familiar book with which to relax. Books to nurture your soul.

  • Books that inspire you
If you read a book and it makes you want to write immediately, keep it. The muse is a flighty thing - keeping an eye on one of her preferred hiding places can't hurt you.

  • Books as reference
This has to overlap with another category, though, since reference books are plentiful at a library. For example, I have a book called The Grammar of Warfare, primarily technical stuff that is over my head - but I plan on rereading it to better understand it, and besides, just look at the drawings of weapons!

  • Books that show you what not to do
The books that show you what not to do must also be (guilty?) pleasures to read, because there's no point keeping around something you don't like.

  • Books not found at your library
This is something of a coward's out - but if you're on the fence about a book and you can't get regular access to it once you let it go, keep it around until you are able to make a decision. Put it on probation, so to speak.


You will never be able to read all the good books that have been written. Instead, appreciate the books you have more.

Quality > quantity.

    Oh yeah, I have got to share this:

    We're not playing it (it's too hard even for my school's wind ensemble, and I'm intermediate band), I've just been listening to it a lot.


    1. Oh well, i still look for places to put books in my room...maybe it is high time i did some pruning myself. Still, even though space is meagre in my room, i'm pretty sure i can put it off for quite a long time...i think that for every book i read you must read about a hundred (at least fifty anyway) so i'm sure you are in a much worse predicament than i am making space :-)

      My harry potter books have a niche of their own in a little bookshelf i have next to the bed, and they are one of my most treasured possessions and i'm pretty sure i'll never give them up. One day, many years from now, when i'll have kids of my own I'll buy them their own copies of harry potter...those next to my bed are mine and no one is to touch them!

      (And since we are talking about books, i've just started reading the hunger games, have you read it? i just can't seem to give up non-school-related books this year. darn.)

      Have a good weekend! :-)

    2. I get almost all my reading material from the library, so I'm not being buried alive by reading materials...yet... x|

      Ooh, the Hunger Games! Yes, I read those - stayed up past midnight on a school night to finish the last one. How are you liking them so far?

    3. hey!! sorry for getting back to you so late, i only have the internet on weekends when i come back home...i see your point, it would be a great idea for me too but the english section in my town's library has less books than i actually own, so if i want to read in english (and i only read in english, i read in italian enough for school) i have to buy (thanks!). So about that...i simply *had to* buy book 2 and 3 of the hunger games cause i was so hooked on the first, it is a real page-turner that one. On tuesday I actually used the computer in the classroom during break to place the order so i had the books waiting for me at home when i got back on friday! :-)

    4. Not a problem - I appreciate your comments whenever I receive them. :)

      Tell me what you think of the books when you finish them!