The only curative attention my bookshelf has received in the past five years is when I packed up to move about two months ago. And at that time, my only action was to figure out which books were mine and which weren’t. All of mine went into a box, to be transported to my new residence. So it was high time that I went through my bookshelf looking to minimize.
I never realized how difficult it was to find a practical definition of “a good book.” I own a lot of books that I enjoyed reading, several books that I would like to read, and some books that I might read or use. They are all “good books” in their own way, but I don’t think I need to keep them all. So what criteria should I use to thin my bookshelf?
Re-readability is a high priority. If I know that I will enjoy a book over and over again, I am willing to keep it. The Stormlight Saga by Brandon Sanderson are such books. Though they are a thousand pages each, I have read them each at least twice, and will certainly read them again. They’re incredibly well-crafted works of fiction, and so inspiring. Definitely staying on my bookshelf.
Another series of books that have re-readability is the Redwall series, by Brian Jacques. These are children’s novels, but well-written and fun. I’ve read most of them twice, and want to go back to them when I have the time. They can stay as well.
The third author that I’ve really collected is Terry Pratchett. His Discworld books are some of the funniest works I’ve ever read, but I don’t know if I’ll read them again. Humour often lies in the unexpected, and re-reading a book can rob it of much of its comedy. But I haven’t yet finished all of the works that are on my shelf, so they can stay at least until I’m finished.
Those are all the series I have; the rest of my shelf is standalone works.
I have The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and there’s no question about those staying. But I also have The Children of Hurin and Farmer Giles of Ham and Other Stories. I’ve read them, but they aren’t of the same quality as LOTR and the Hobbit.
The Neverending Story by Michael Ende is a book that I thoroughly loved when I was younger, but that I don’t see myself reading often. I feel the same about The Book of Dragons by E Nesbit, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster, and several other books. It’s much harder to get rid of these books, but at the same time I don’t feel like I need to keep them.
Then there are the non-fiction books that I have. These are much easier to evaluate, because most of them I can easily admit to myself that I will never use / read again. The few that I really enjoyed, I’ll keep them around for the moment, but they’ll likely go in the future.
After about ten minutes of “work” (sitting on the floor, skimming through the books that I pulled off the shelves), I had a stack of ten books that I could get rid. It’s not many, but it’s certainly a start. Now I just have to figure out how I can get rid of them without creating waste.