My husband and I decided, on a whim, to cull (most of) our bookshelves. He and I are both avid readers and, perhaps more so, avid book buyers. We also both believe in owning books, which has its benefits and disadvantages. (And we are very lucky to have the space to keep a sizable collection.) This means that we lean toward keeping every book we buy, when not every book is one we NEED to own.
I think we have five rough categories of books that are “worth” keeping (ALL books are worth keeping — this is just how we helped identify books for culling):
- Classics, that we feel we should own because they have staying power.
- Books by authors we love. Auto-buy authors tend to stay on the shelves. My husband’s Stephen King and Ian McEwan collections fall into this category. My many detective/murder mystery series also count here.
- Books with sentimental value. This covers my entire poetry collection, which makes me think of grad school; books we received as gifts from dear friends/family; autographed books; and books from our childhoods. It also covers favorite books – All the Light We Cannot See, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and The Namesake are three of mine.
- Books that we’ll read again. My Sue Grafton, Sophie Hannah, Tana French, and Kate Atkinson series all fit into this category. The Sue Grafton in particular is my go-to comfort read and slump buster series. (I don’t know if my husband has any books in this category; he is not a big re-reader.) Some of these are books we hope/want to read with our daughter – the Harry Potter books, for instance.
- Also, books that we have not yet read, of which we own a truly embarrassing number. This includes newish books, like those I got for Christmas (Cloud Cuckoo Land, The Push, Bird by Bird), Book of the Month buys we still haven’t gotten to (even though our joint subscription ended several years ago), and books we’ve purchased for ourselves or one another that just haven’t made it off the ol’ TBR yet.
As you might imagine, there is a lot of overlap among these categories. My copy of The Count of Monte Cristo falls into both the sentimental value and classics category, and I like to think that I will also read it again someday.
It’s my understanding that some people also have Display Books – like, books that they want other people to see them own. Aside from my office bookshelves, which are visible when you walk through the front door, none of our bookshelves are in public spaces of our home, so we don’t really have that category of books. (I am not opposed to this category of books, by the way; as long as they are an accurate representation of what a person reads or wants to read, I think browsing people’s shelves can give you a lot of insight into their personality. Or at least their college English class curriculum.)
Do the books in your collection fall into any of these categories? Are there categories I haven’t touched on that your books fall into?
It’s difficult for both my husband and me to get rid of books. So if there was any hesitation on either part, we didn’t mark a book for culling.
We were able to find a nice stack of books that don’t fall into any of those categories for us, and I am pleased by the number of books we have to donate/add to local Little Free Libraries… and by the number of spaces it opens up on our shelves!