Friday, December 9, 2011

When Books Attack: The Great Book Purge of 2011.

I have been thinking long and hard over the last few months about my book acquisitions. That would be part of the reason why I put myself under a book-buying ban and have tried to limit what I acquire. And while I haven't been the most successful at staying away from buying books, I have been thinking long and hard about what I want my future library to look like.

The truth is, I buy and keep EVERY book I read. And while I certainly don't have an issue with continuing that because I also reread a TON, I have been thinking about all of those boxes of books left in my closet. My husband and I live in a smaller apartment and space is limited. I only have 3 bookshelves to house my books and one of those is pretty tiny. The rest of my books live in the closet. Most of them haven't seen the light of day since I packed them into those boxes before my wedding two years ago.

I have never culled my books. I have held on to everything. And really, there were quite a few books packed away that I knew I could easily get rid of without a second thought. My goal for my future library is something that holds LOVED and cherished titles. I know that some of my massive collection will never be read again-those are the ones I feel comfortable with culling. And really, my book collection was teetering near 1700 before I decided to take this on.

So, I sat down, pulled out some boxes, and started culling. I wasn't sure how many I would really get rid of, but it was enough just to go through them. I ended up pulling nearly 140 books from the boxes I went through (I still have a couple to go through). Some of the books I set aside for giveaways, others were given or sent on to friends. I am selling the rest to a used bookstore downtown (anything not sold is being donated). I consider that a huge feat and I was super proud of myself!

I thought you all might like a look at some of my books. Some are uber-embarrassing, and others brought back memories. I should note that I didn't get rid of all of these, just some. :)

This one is a collection of short stories that I bought at a library sale a few years ago (I think I was in college). The picture of the man had me cracking up....oh cheesy covers.

Why yes, that is a Peter-Pan attired chap floating in trees. I soaked this stuff up as a middle and high school student. :) Yes, nerdy.

Yet more old science-fiction titles. I think these two were actually turned into book trees the other night. I read a lot of this kind of science-fiction in high school. I was a cheesy sci-fi junkie.

Oh Lurlene I loved your emotional, sappy books as a young pre-teen. And I was surprised to see I still had a handful...

I have this...obsession with dragons. I know that sounds totally stupid coming from a 26 year old. But hey, dragons are sweet. This is actually a newer book that my mom bought me from Borders when they were closing. I see this as a necessity. :)

This one had me cracking up. I know when and where I bought it, but I think I'll keep that to myself. :)

This was another fun find. I remember being in the bookstore with Matt when he spotted this and told me to buy it. It is a fun little reference book. I think he told me to buy it so I could use it for writing, which makes me laugh to think about now. Anyway, I kept this one out to keep on the shelf (come on, it's funny!).

Opening a box from my childhood warmed my heart. It took me a really long time to go through this box, mostly because I had to crack open some of the books to find my favorite passages. These two books were some of my favorites, and to be honest, I thought I had lost these! Both of these are continuations of the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I LOVED them. I only wish I had the rest of them!

Along with the above, I also found a bunch of books from the "Authors in April" events at my elementary schools. Our district sponsored this program to have authors come in and sign books for different grade levels. I always had a book or two and loved getting them signed. This one was a favorite of mine (and shows my early love for dragons). :) I love the message too.

Another thing I forgot I had were these-5 double editions of Nancy Drew stories from the 1960s. These actually belonged to my aunt and had been abandoned at my grandmother's house. When I would visit over there, I would lug these around with me and read them over and over again.

One of the things I was happiest about, in cleaning out all my books, is that I also had the opportunity to harass Matt to hang a couple of shelves for some of my older books.

My grandmother passed away a few years ago. When we were cleaning out her house in preparation to sell it, my aunts and uncles told me I could have free reign over the books in the basement. While a lot of them were in rough shape and not of any interest to me, I stumbled on some of my grandmother's older books shoved behind some boxes on a shelf. Every single one of the books on these two shelves were hers. The best part about these is that she wrote her name, address, and the date in each one. Some of these are from the 1940s. I cherish them more than anything.

This first shelf holds just a couple of them, in addition to some of my things. The teapot was bought with my mother and sister on a trip to San Francisco. The picture is of Matt and myself at my Homecoming Dance when I was a senior in high school (I think we had been dating for only 2 or 3 months at that point). The big candle holder was a gift from my aunt. The little girl statue is a Hummel, and was also given to me after my grandmother's death. She's holding a little book in her lap, so it is definitely fitting. The books are assorted, but my favorite is the red one-a collection of Dickens' Christmas stories. :)

This second shelf holds more of the books I found in her basement. Again, the picture on the left is of me and Matt (oh, so long ago), and the other was an engagement gift.

I like knowing that my grandmother would appreciate me finally having her books out on display. She was sick for a long time before she passed, and in her last few months, she still read. I actually lent her a few of my George Eliot titles during that time period thinking she would love them. And she did. Now when I read them, it gives me some level of comfort in knowing that she once held and read them too.

There you have it, a look at my book culling project. I still have a couple of boxes to go through, but I am proud of the progress I made and the fact that the books I culled will find new homes. This also makes room for more, right? ;)

How often do you go through your books?


  1. This sounds like a rather larger feat to undertake in the midst of Christmas preparations! I admire your tenacity, and I loved looking at the titles/covers of books you've once (still) cherish. How wonderful to have your grandmother's editions with her writing! I give some of my books away, the ones which disappointed me, by dropping them off at the For Sale shelf at our local library. I sneak a few in, and then usually take a few new titles off, so my shelves are never much thinned out. Part of why I like my nook. It stores invisibly. ;)

  2. What a productive goal! Last year, I got rid of 300+ books (and still have over 1700 in my house). I really need to go through and cull again since I have seven book shelves and a closet full of books. It's bad. Really bad.

    I love your shelves with your grandmother's books on them.

  3. I usually try to go through my books as I read them. I put them in either a keep, donate, or give away pile.

  4. Aaaaa! I have those Nancy Drew double editions! (Aren't they UGLY?) My grandmother gave them to me when I was a kid, but she must have gotten them used--it was about 1980. I have never seen them anywhere else. Keep those and give 'em to your kids!

    The problem with buying and keeping all the books you read is that eventually you will end up broke and homeless, living in a shelter made of books. ;) So I get the majority of my reading material at the library. I have gotten rid of some books too, of course. My usual rule is that I try to only keep books I know I will want to re-read several times, or that I can't get at the library even through ILL, or that I want to kids to read too. That is still a heck of a lot of books.

  5. Well done! I used to keep everything I read, but in recent years I've made an effort to only keep books I loved and know I'll re-read. I still have way, way, way too many, but that's ok.

  6. I like the dragons!:D... Wow...that's quite a lot of books!

    For me, there was a time, for many many years, when the only books I owned were all gifts and/or prizes. Then I began to brave it out and put a little of my allowance aside to add to my sister's and get ourselves the Harry Potter series. We both grew a little bolder from then on...about buying books for ourselves, I mean. Currently, my books don't amount to more than about 80, I think. My old stack was accidentally given away by my mom when my husband and I moved house.

    I've been looking at my collection lately and have realised that the only books I want to own are the ones I know I would love to re-read...and the, I'm planning to give away the ones I'm not interested in keeping, soon.:)

  7. I loved Lurlene McDaniel when I was a teenager! That brings back memories.

    You did great culling so many books. I probably go through my books every week or twice a month. I'm constantly going back and forth to the library so library books take up a lot of room along with ARCs and my own books. I try to make it a habit to take any books I'm not going to reread to the library when I return library books.

  8. I have the magical creatures encyclopedia... I couldn't pass it up when I saw it either.

    I haven't really USED it yet, but I hope to pick it up here and there to at least hear about mythical creatures in old literature or fantasy video games.

  9. I read Lurlene McDaniel as a pre-teen, too.

    I find at different stages in my life going through and getting rid of books. In a way it was cleansing. The genre of books I read in my early 20s are books I hardly pick up today. When I moved from the US to Canada, I had to get rid of many books (but spend a small fortune on shipping others here).

  10. I am the exact opposite with books. While you got rid of about 140, that's probably how many I own. I get rid of nearly everything after I read it. For most of my life, I haven't even bought books, but just gotten them from the library. I went through a phase in '09 and '10 where I bought hundreds of titles, then got overwhelmed and donated most of them without reading them. I can't live with tons of unread books on my shelves, haha!

  11. I now have an abridged copy of The Count of Monte Cristo I plan to give away! ;-)

    I have actually only begun really collecting books since the onset of my classic reading (2010), so I don't have too huge a collection yet. When I moved recently, I culled many of my old books, and ended up with two full five-shelf bookcases. Now I have a couple stacks in the closet, several in stacks on the floor and a few crammed on top of the stacks within the bookshelves, in an attempt to keep things in alphabetical order by author.

    I'm not sure what I'll do when my stack gets huge. I tend to write in my books as I read. (Except for the really beautiful versions, like leather-bound; somehow it seems crazy to write in those!) So, consequently, my books become journals and would be unreadable to recipients (and a bit too private) to share. I love cross-hatching the pages as I progress, then revisiting my scribbled thoughts in the margins, months later.

    So, I'm not sure what I'll do when my book-owning takes over. I'm not there yet.

    I love all the photos -- especially the Little House books!! And your memory of your grandmother's read through your books by George Eliot.

  12. Oh man, I never go through my books... I don't have quite as many as you (I think I have around 550) but I still know there are some that I won't read again but I'm just too lazy/sad to get rid of them! So well done you! :)

  13. wow and I thought I had a lot of books! Mine were finally put out on display about a year and a half ago when I was 28 or so, so I can totally relate to wish those books out of the closet.

    And cool stories about your grandma's books. I'm glad you can cull some of the unnecessary books, but isn't it fun to see the favorites and LOVE the memories?

    Since you LOVE dragons, i assume you've read the Enchanted Forest series? About Kazul (I think that was her name) the dragon and her princess? I loved those as a preteen.

  14. I'm to much of a book magpie to cull my books properly, but I have got rid of about a box or so in my time. It was mainly Sweet Valley Highs and the like! :)

  15. Oh my I LOVED those Lurlene McDaniel books that you have pictured there. I thought they were the epitome of all that was romantic. :)

  16. I have a ridiculous number of unread books in the house, but not that many read books. I've started keeping some, but more so I have a loaner shelf than for any other reason. I've moved a lot, and books are a drag to pack and carry, so that's helped to keep the numbers down over the years.

  17. Good job- I had to do this about 10 years ago- My husband and I had been holding on to our books and we had kept moving them from apt to apt. Finally when he joined the Navy we had to put a stop to it. We sold many and donated many more. We still have boxes of box that we could probably get rid of.

    I am trying to only hold on to hard backs, classics and Fitzgerald books. I really don't have the room for any more.

    Good Luck

  18. What a trip down memory lane! I own tons and tons of books. It's a little ridiculous. I cull a few times a year. If I don't like something enough and don't think I'll read it again, I will likely give it away. My problem is I haven't read several of the books I own. Some day.

  19. Wow, thats very brave. I would be too scared just yet to cull my books, but with baby on the way it might only be a matter of time sadly. I hope one day to have a proper place to display all of my books, and I think that I will try and hold on to as many as I can until I find that space and then consider what goes up. I admire you for giving it a go now!

  20. Wow, that was an ambitious project! I'm not very good at culling books, so I try to circumvent it by only buying those I really really want or know I will reread.

    I think it's really neat that you have all those books from your grandma, and I love the way you have them displayed.

  21. I totally hear you on owning a crazy amount of books. I don't know how many I actually own, but I recently forced myself to catalogue my unread books and it totally 502!!! And I own way more books that I've read than that I haven't...In my defense, some of the 502 are technically my husband's mainly history and political books from college. I'm now making myself read all of my unread books before buying more (except for a few minor incentives along the way). Since I've started using the library again two years ago, I don't buy books nearly as often, so many of these books have been sitting unread for years, some from library book sales when I was in high school or college! That would be over 10 years ago...Plus I own a crazy amount of kids books for someone who doesn't plan on having kids...

  22. I am like Amanda - I get rid of most books after I read them. There are exceptions of course, but the majority of the books in my house haven't been read yet. It's a little funny when a guest comes over and starts perusing my shelve becuase they will frequently ask how I liked one book or another, and they find it strange that I haven't read any of them.