In a perfect world, I would never discard books. I would save the ones I no longer wanted until just the right person walked into my life, and I could gift them the ideal book for their needs in that moment. (Maybe I’m a librarian manqué…)
In this world, however, we have six bookcases and they are crammed. There are stacks of books on the piano. There are more in the bedroom. There are yet more in the living room, and have I mentioned the study, the bathroom (repository of magazines), and the kids’ room? It’s time to purge.
Happily, books have more lives than cats. A few of mine will go to friends and neighbours. Most will go to my local library’s Neverending Book Sale, which fundraises for the library. But still, it hurts.
I love paper books because they contain powerful memories of when I acquired them (I’ll never part with the first book my husband ever gave me – Middlemarch – although I have 2 other editions of the same book), my priorities at the time (a hideous and battered 1970s paperback copy of The French Lieutenant’s Woman reminds me how tight my budget was as I began my fourth year as an undergrad), and where I read them (a train ticket from Manchester to London is a bookmark that reminds me of what I was reading on our last trip to England).
Some books are easier to shed: literary theory that I held on to, because I couldn’t quite believe I’d escaped the academy; books I haven’t thought about in years; books I know I’ve read but whose content has leaked from my brain. But for the most part, getting rid of books feels like an eviction. I hope the little darlings (even the ones I disliked and disrespected) don’t take it personally. And I hope they find new homes soon. But they’ve got to go.
How do you manage your book collections? And how do you feel about getting rid of books?