I don’t like to over burden you with personal stuff, but life does have a habit of catching up with you, and I’d like your advice on a thorny subject. Also, apologies in advance for a rather long and very rambling post …
I come from a family of hoarders and collectors. My late, lovely Mum was a big one and my Dad likes a well-stocked bookcase too. In our generation, these traits are well to the fore – My brother collects Mini paraphernalia and cricket/soccer books in particular; me – I just collect/hoard books, books and more books these days (having got over my Star Trek collecting phase in the last millennium thankfully).
Now I mean no disrespect to anyone who suffers from any form of OCD, but this collecting/hoarding mania does have some commonalities with the more serious condition. My TBR piles have got totally out of hand – I have nearly twenty years worth of books to read if I keep up at my present rate, so you can see my problem. I see books and have to have them, just in case I never encounter them again and miss reading something brilliant. I got out of the habit of using the library many years ago once I was able to afford to buy enough books to read. I have a couple of favourite charity shops that can be relied upon to have a good choice of books too – cheaper on the wallet, but still puts on the shelf inches, resulting in teetering piles in the spare room that long ago o’erflowed the bookcases, and are now migrating into other rooms. I always wanted a personal library, but with the exception of my main reference collection, it’s getting more and more difficult to locate books when I want them.
Teresa over at Shelf Love is trying to change her habits and inspired by her post, I think a good bit of spring-cleaning and cognitive-book-therapy is required at Gaskell Towers too.
I made a tiny start this January by joining in with the TBR Dare. Apart from sneaking in the two Penguin Mini Modern Classics I was sent to review, I’ve kept to only reading books already in the piles since Jan 1 which is good, but I’ve only finished thirteen books so far this year; thus it hasn’t made a huge impact yet, and review copies do keep arriving. I have made a few acquisitions, but substantially less than usual which is good. The TBR Dare is scheduled to run until the end of March, and I should make that deadline.
I’ll tackle incoming books another time. Today, I’d like to discuss how to decide which books to keep and which books I should cull.
Back in Feb 2009 and this blog was young, I made myself a list of Rules For Keeping Books – at the time I was quite proud of them. Here they are again…
I may keep a book once read if it meets one or more of these criteria:
- I rated it 9 or 10 points out of 10;
- It’s part of a series I am reading and intend to keep in its entirety;
- It’s a collectable edition, e.g. hardback firsts, Folio, illustrated, other special editions;
- It’s won a major prize, e.g. Booker, Pullitzer, Orange, Costa, Goncourt etc;
- It’s an important book in the history of literature;
- It’s by an author I collect (see list);
- It’s a book I want to keep for my daughter;
- It belongs to a particular ‘reading trail’ or area of special interest, e.g. Russian novels, fairy tales, children’s novels;
- It’s signed by the author;
- It’s non-fiction and useful for reference;
- It’s a top-class hardback biography.
There’s one fatal flaw with the above – there are all too few books that fall outside these criteria. Also it’s missing one major point ‘It’s a book I may want to re-read’. However, now I have my Kindle, and it’s mostly classics that I re-read so that’s not an issue any more.
So what can I do to reduce the keepers?
- First and foremost, I should only keep fantastic fiction. If I didn’t enjoy it, I shouldn’t keep it for any reason other than it’s a collectable/signed edition or it’s a book my daughter will want/need to read at some time.
- Do I need to keep an entire series together? Matching sets, be they true series or publishing strands, are attractive, so maybe – but they need to average on the excellent with some fantastic reads in them. Non-matching series – don’t think I have the same need to keep them together.
- Reading trails – not long term keepers I think, short term yes for referring back.
- Non-fiction depends on the reference potential.
- What about authors I collect … There was a time when I was a real completist with my music – in the days of several formats of cd singles with bonus tracks etc – I had to get all the options – but just listened once or twice to those bonus tracks and shelved the cds – never got round to compiling the bonus track compilations I planned. I sold most of those, along with all my Trekkie stuff, and bought more books instead. This is leading to the fact that I think I don’t need to be completist about keeping everything written by a particular author either, so I can dump the duffers after reading.
At this point, I think I shall stop rambling and save ‘culling the TBR’ for another day. Instead I will turn it over to you, because I’d really like to know…
How do you decide which books to keep?