Just how many books do you need?

Does this sound familiar?

…. However many shelves were built there were still never enough. The books in alphabetical rows were overgrown by piles of new books, doubled in front. Books multiplied, books swarmed; they were a papery population explosion. When they had exhausted the shelves, they started to take over the stairs. 

This is a comment from a short e book published by Linda Grant about the experience of culling her library in preparation for a move from a spacious house to a much smaller apartment. 

I suspect that most of us who love reading have had a similar experience with books that just seem to take over the house. Fortunately I’m not having to do the cull that Grant describes which meant for her “killing” the library she had built from her childhood. But I have got a little better and don’t automatically keep a book when I’ve read it on the basis that I might want to read it again at some point. I very rarely do however – there always seem to be too many other enticing options available.

But still I have this idea, probably a very idealistic notion, that one day when I have retired from full time working, that I will have the time revisit all the books I’ve loved over the years. It would be ridiculous to let all those books go and then buy them a second time wouldn’t it? And so I keep hoarding for that rainy day….

Do you keep books or are you much more pragmatic than I seem to be? 

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on May 18, 2014, in Sunday Salon and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Pragmatic? Hah! I keep every book that I loved and/or think I will get something from re-reading. Which is at least half of the books I buy. I almost never re-read but like to consider these books my retirement plan.

  2. These days I only keep books that I really, really like. Others are better of in the hands of my friends. Well, they can borrow the really good books, but they can’t keep them. The okay books they can keep. I need the space! 🙂

  3. Between my husband and I we have close to 4,000 books at our house. Over the last several years we have bought fewer and fewer opting instead to use the library. But there are always books by favorite authors we want to own or books that are so enticing or so good we need to own those too and even though we no longer buy as much as we used to, books still accumulate!

  4. Since I moved around a lot after college I stopped keeping every book. After I finish a book if it’s good I pass it on, if it’s not I resell it to a used bookstore and if they won’t take it I donate it to the local library book sale!

    • I’ve not had much success in selling books. I tried a couple of times on eBay but had no interest even though they were priced low so I just decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

  5. I will weed from time to time, but I have a core of a thousand+ that have been shipped from country to country and can only be peeled out of my cold dead hands.

    • Gosh that’s a lot of books to move. We had box upon box when we moved much to the disgust of the removal company because they had to life them but it was nowhere near 1000, though I suppose I don’t really know the number I do have

  6. I have way too many books…but as of last month I have stopped buying. I know it’s time when I start feeling pressured as my reading rate is much, much slower than my buying rate. I do go through my books once in a while, and donate/trade in/sell those that have no significant meaning or value to me.

  7. I need to weed the books I have at home. It’s a huge undertaking, and I’m waiting till retirement to do it, unless we end up moving before then! I very rarely reread, also, but maybe someday…

    • moving home would certainly be an impetus Laurie. For us, it was the fact we were going to remodel the bedroom which meant losing a very useful under the eaves cupboard where many of our books were stored.

  8. I am very short of space, so I am happy to give away books. I rarely reread and I am completely unsentimental, so I am pretty ruthless when it comes to culling books. Plus, where is the time to dust and file and shelve? Laziness wins over literary love every time 🙂

    • excuse my ignorance but what is this thing you call dusting???

      • In India, there’s a lot of dust that comes into houses, especially if you live near the coast.

        I need to dust the books and the shelves once a week, otherwise it forms a thick layer and everyone in the house starts sneezing.

        I dread the weekly dust up and that automatically makes me prune stuff in the house.

        • we used to haves something of the same problem when the coal industry was thriving in this area and everything got covered in fine black dust. but since the coal mines closed the problem has gone

  9. I usually keep only the books I know I would love to re-read. I get rid of the stuff that I dislike or I feel I wouldn’t care to read a second time.

  10. I refuse to double in front! I just get more shelves! Got over 800 books now and am going to order some more today!

  11. I keep most of my books but cull to make space from time to time

  12. I just have a lot of university textbooks and high school novels in boxes and in random piles. I haven’t managed to get rid of them and quite a few of these books I wouldn’t even give to my worst enemy. My goal is to have a well-organized bookshelf showcasing my favorite works.

    • Ah yes, the university textbooks. I kept mine in a trunk for decades, lugging them from one house to another. I do still have a few but eventually most of them went.

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