Getting Rid of Books


The latest installment in the Great Book Purge!

I have become increasingly serious about getting rid of books over the last few years. I find myself reaching a junction in life where the answer is not more bookshelves but less books. Right now I have six boxes of books that I will be donating in various ways. Sold off a couple other boxes of books yesterday–and didn’t buy more.

One of the things I’m discovering is that the more I cull books from my personal library, the easier it gets and the more ruthless I am about what stays. There are books I’ve not read that I just have to admit to myself, “I’ll never read that,” as interesting as it looks. There are times I’ll put a book back on the shelf, and a week later say, “no, I really do not need this.”

Increasingly, I find myself asking, “which books are like old friends, that each time I visit them, the experience is richer?” Many are books I bought years ago, and a number are classics of history, literature, and theology.

Some of the easiest to get rid of are the “trendy” books–when the trend is ten years old or older. I suspect they won’t get picked up by anyone else either. I look back and wonder why I hadn’t been more selective.

There are other books that still are good reading. But the subjects and the lessons are ones that were of greater interest in earlier seasons of life. Seems best to me to get them to people who are facing those seasons.

I wonder how others who cherish good books as I do deal with the realities of parting with them. How have you made these decisions? Was it easy, or hard? Maybe we can learn from each other.

8 thoughts on “Getting Rid of Books

  1. For me, it’s super-easy. I started seriously culling books a couple of years ago, realizing that I have so many on my Goodreads want-to-read list that I won’t live long enough to get through them. Why would I ever waste precious time rereading even a very good book? It’s like other good news — if you liked a book, you want to share it. I donate many of my best books (current or timeless) to my church library, where I volunteer and for which I write a book blog. Occasionally someone checks one out, which thrills me. Others I take to a local used-book store, and whatever is not wanted there lands in our county library’s annual book sale — which somehow manages a sell-out every year. I suspect some are “bought” by the truckload on the last day and recycled, but I don’t want to know that.

  2. From necessity I too have to drastically downsize my library. Yes, the books I kept are the classics as well as those that forced me to explore new aspects of the study of the mind of God. These I want to read again to make sure I got everything that there was to get. It was easy to donate books that brought nothing new to an on-going discussion as well as those ‘trendy’ ones that now seem ‘why did I get this?’.

  3. I can certainly relate to “I’ll never read that,” and to “I look back and wonder why I hadn’t been more selective.” I have donated multiple boxes of books to our church library and to book sales at three different local libraries. Next spring it will be time to cull again.

      • Unfortunately, that “no one reads them” comment about church libraries is becoming more and more the case. Over the past 15 years, I have been on church building committees where we visited other churches for ideas. In every single case, the congregations said, don’t even think of including one anymore. People don’t use them and, sad to say given the comments here, they often become only collections of books that people no longer want in there own libraries.

      • I hear you. I volunteer at our church library, and we work to keep it current and attractive. We’re very selective in what we catalog (like-new, attractive, current — we know our patrons’ interests). What we can’t use, we donate to Christian Library International (nationwide prison ministry headquartered in our city) and local charities, where they are gratefully received. But we also plug the library regularly in church publications, and I blog about new acquisitions on our website. Circulation is still relatively low for a church our size but has at least tripled over what it was before we started recreating our image 4 years ago. We love doing it, and positive feedback keeps us on track.

  4. I have always hated clutter, and have a rule I follow pretty consistently – “if something new comes in the house, something old must go.” Except for books. haha. I do cull books regularly, but I probably only get rid of 2 or 3 for every 10 new ones. Most of mine are non-fiction, and I do often use them for teaching, preaching, writing. I told my husband, no more book shelves, so I do try to both limit new books (be selective) and get rid of books.

    I don’t tend to buy trendy or popular books – I check them out of library. Same for most fiction. I don’t tend to buy books on a whim, but ones I have read reviews, appreciate the author, etc. Like you, sometimes I must get honest with myself and realize I will never read a certain book and get rid of it. I highlight when I read (non-fiction) – If I finish a book and only a handful of things were highlighted, likely it is not worth keeping. I will jot down the noteworthy things in a notebook, and get rid of the book. An every few year look at the shelves can reveal that time has made certain books obsolete – I have “moved on” from the topic matter. If I am uncertain about certain books, holding on to them, but reconsidering in another year or two, can bring clarity – one way or the other.

  5. Pingback: Caring for the Books You Want to Keep | Bob on Books

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