Reasons for keeping books

PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
Keeping, not just reading.

I struggle to part with books, but I have had to go to considerable lengths to disperse Mr Puzzler’s huge library, and have also parted with some of my own, but it goes against the grain. Never before have I had such a clear out. In the past I have never parted with books, bar the odd one or two which I have taken to a charity shop.

But now I still need to reduce some more. I am asking myself why I want to keep books - not that I think anyone needs to justify keeping books, ever. I just need a way of deciding.

So far I am keeping books which have sentimental value or associations, books I will / might want to read or refer to again, books I have never read and intend to, and particular books I just want on my shelves. But there are still too many.

Any more thoughts?
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Comments

  • BoogieBoogie Heaven Host
    We are in a tiny cottage with very little space for shelves or cupboards. We just had to be ruthless when we moved - with everything.

    One set of books I simply couldn’t get rid of for sentimental reasons was my Dad’s set of aeroplane books from the 30s. He was so fascinated by all things about flying and started off building them at AVROs. He would be so proud and interested that his grandson became an airline captain.

    Apart from them we have a small shelf of recipe books in the kitchen. Mr Boogs has a shelf of woodwork books in his workshop and we have a small shelf of various books in the lounge. Oh - and a box of children’s books upstairs for granddaughter visits.

    Probably 50 books all told.

    We use the library a lot now. 🙂
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    You might find that rereading some of them will help you decide. These days I tend to buy fiction as ebooks, in a (doomed) attempt to keep the size of the collection under control.
  • FirenzeFirenze Shipmate, Host Emeritus
    We keep loads of vintage 'tec stories, because it's frequently the case that we can re-read them having forgotten the murderer (ah the joy of aging) plus buying now what once cost 2/6 it's 'first edition' and ££.
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    I keep books to reread, for reference, because they are beautiful (think illuminated manuscripts, not that I’m lucky enough to have any real ones!) or for sentimental reasons. I may also keep those I expect a family member to use for textbooks in the near future. The rest will probably be cleared out soon.

    Though books take up so little space compared to some of the things people have wished on us that I’m not in a huge hurry to deal with them. I need to get rid of all the plastic containers, the unwanted clothes, the unneeded pots and pans…
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    Could i ask why you feel the need to reduce more, when you clearly have good reasons for keeping what you have?
  • HarryCHHarryCH Shipmate
    I have some duplicates on my shelves. I plan to give them away.
  • CathscatsCathscats Shipmate
    I keep books. Especially I keep fiction. When I look at their spines on my many bookshelves I am reminded of the many different worlds that are there, into which I can step for a while whenever I choose to open them up.
  • quetzalcoatlquetzalcoatl Shipmate
    I used to keep thousands of books, but old age is making me get rid of a lot. Well, allowing me to, I should say. I've lost interest in a lot, and hang on to some, really for sentimental reasons.
  • NenyaNenya All Saints Host, Ecclesiantics & MW Host
    Some good advice here already. When I moved into my little study I had a clear out of books and all the books in here now are ones I know I want to keep, apart from a couple I've read and know I won't reread so intend to pass on. My own children's books are in here and I have some books that belonged to my children stored under our bed for sentimental reasons and for when our grandchild gets old enough to enjoy them.

    Books are the one thing I do have lots of and have always been a huge part of my life. The hardest part of clearing my mum's house when she died was the books. She was a minimalist and, from the gaps already on the shelves, had clearly given some away before she died. We kept some of the remainder and took some to charity, but quite a few ended up in a skip at the local tip. I cried long and hard about that.
    Puzzler wrote: »
    So far I am keeping books which have sentimental value or associations, books I will / might want to read or refer to again, books I have never read and intend to, and particular books I just want on my shelves. But there are still too many.

    I agree with @Lamb Chopped that these are all good reasons to keep the books, but of those, the one category I suggest could go is "books I have never read and intend to" simply because you might never get round to reading them (unlikely if your main hobby is reading) and if at a later date you decide you do want to read one you could borrow it from the library.

  • MarthaMartha Shipmate
    Most of the books on my shelves have been re-read multiple times. Usually I don't buy a book unless I've read it and know I want to read it again. I must have got through thousands of library books in my lifetime, though! And books which reading friends pass along are treated like library books: they come in, they get read, they go out again.

    The ones I'd be really sorry to lose were old and obscure when they came to me, and probably impossible to replace. I could always get more Pratchett or Sayers, but not a book called Tangletrees, from my grandparents' house, or a Daily Mail Annual for Girls from the 1950s.
  • Graven ImageGraven Image Shipmate
    I keep books written by my friends. So many have passed, so they are extra precious now. I keep favorites to re-read and loan to others. I keep cookbooks because I enjoy looking at the old dishes and knowing my mother made them, even though most recipes are online. We have a mobile home library where I live, so it has been easy to donate there, knowing I can always still enjoy the book.
  • Tree BeeTree Bee Shipmate
    I would suggest weeding for condition. So paperbacks that are yellowing, or where the glue has perished and the pages are loose. It’s more pleasant to read a book in good condition.
    With a caveat; do keep any that are out of print so may be irreplaceable.
  • betjemaniacbetjemaniac Shipmate
    I just keep them all because I agree with Anthony Powell - Books Do Furnish A Room.

    Which book is also on the shelf.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    My wife and I own thousand upon thousands of books many in storage in our basement. We have both become comfortable with the fact that we will die with books unread. Occasionally, we cull our collection and give the discards a good home.
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    Could i ask why you feel the need to reduce more, when you clearly have good reasons for keeping what you have?

    Lack of space. The ones I am undecided about are mainly ‘coffee table books’ on many topics, eg castles, churches, coast, gardening and cookery books, some c20 literature, and many reference books concerning language and style, linguistics etc.
    It is true to say they furnish a room.
    Thanks for the many thoughts.
    I will keep as many as I have room for, for now.

    My French classical literature has to go.
    I still have some specialist books left in Mr Puzzler’s study. About 350-400, at a guess, plus whatever else I let go. They will go either to Oxfam or National Trust bookshops.
    About 3000 already gone.



  • RockyRogerRockyRoger Shipmate
    My fear is that, echoing C S Leis, if I take down the bookcases all the walls will fall down!
    In the last twenty years I've had three major culls ... and regretted them all afterwards.
    Never again!
  • Lamb ChoppedLamb Chopped Shipmate
    I'm in somewhat the opposite case, as we live in an old house with virtually no insulation--or at least until we put up bookshelves everywhere! They do a pretty good job.
  • I just keep them all because I agree with Anthony Powell - Books Do Furnish A Room.

    Which book is also on the shelf.

    An excellent thought - thank you.

    However... Just a year ago we had to clear out my beloved mother-in-law's house after she died, and there was still about half of the book collection left after their last move. In the end, we filled about twenty boxes, and the town sent the recycling lorry for a special collection (so to speak). Many were classics and fiction that would be easy to find at the library or on line, many were art, reference and religion, and most were in poor condition. There may have been one or two with some value, but we missed them if there were. A heavily annotated life of John Calvin was never going to be cherished by the grandchildren or a second hand bookseller... It was hard to do, but there were not many alternatives in the time we had to clear the house - a common problem, I would think. (When my own mother died, my young sister just added her books to her own hoard and she still has them. Most of the floors in her house haven't been seen for years).
  • TelfordTelford Deckhand, Styx
    We have a room which my wife calls the dinning room. I call it the Library. Apart from a few classics, if it's fiction and I don't remember anything about it, I keep it. Otherwise it can go to a new home
  • NicoleMRNicoleMR Shipmate
    I keep books. I also read ebooks on my Nook, I have about 230 ebooks on the Nook, and five bookcases of physical books.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    We have just invested in a built-in bookcase in our living room, which allows us to triple-stack our collection of crime paperbacks... sorry Puzzler, this isn't helping, is it?
  • Books breed. They've taken over my study. There piles of them under my coffee table and in a tottering pile in my living room. There are more on the landing upstairs and some in boxes in my bedroom. There are cookery books in the kitchen. There are books in the attic.

    I get rid of some but others grow in their place. Some I've read. Others I'll never read. I've tried borrowing them from the library instead but that doesn't work.

    They don't just furnish the room. They are the room.
  • chrisstileschrisstiles Hell Host
    The other reason for keeping books you haven't read is that all of literature is in conversation with itself (as per Eco in this extract).

    I have a few hundred books on my e-reader, but if space wasn't an issue would prefer to have them as physical copies - my physical books are more likely to have been read multiple times.
  • Loving all the responses and glad to see all the booklovers. We've had to face this issue twice fairly recently. With Dad's estate it was that sister and I took the books we wanted at the time and the rest went to charity. I already had his Williams and AA Milne's and have subsequently added the Aunt's childhood books which she knew we wanted.

    When we moved house I got rid of books I'd had for years but never got around to reading, from that I decided that they weren't really high priority for me, though they did look interesting when I bought them. I didn't think I could justify keeping them.

    As I run out of space I look at what I've recently bought and debate whether I want to keep them for the story (I mostly read fiction), and I look at the size of the book to see which book I could swap out and dispose of to replace on the shelf with books being kept. That doesn't always work, and I've bought 2 bookcases in the last 5 years.

    Some things I've bought or have been gifted, I suspect are not long term keepers, say the Bridgerton novels after reading a couple my husband bought the rest of the set when they were on special. In a few years they might be able to be weeded, whereas I don't think I'll ever toss my hardcover Maeve Binchys or my Jodi Picoults.

    If I had unlimited space I'd keep everything, but recognise that unfortunately it's not a realistic option and I do cast my eye around wondering whether I can squeeze in another bookcase anywhere.

    If I visit someone I love to see what is on their shelves, for me it's a shorthand way of seeing who this person is and what it is that interests them.
  • TelfordTelford Deckhand, Styx
    Books breed. They've taken over my study. There piles of them under my coffee table and in a tottering pile in my living room. There are more on the landing upstairs and some in boxes in my bedroom. There are cookery books in the kitchen. There are books in the attic.

    I get rid of some but others grow in their place. Some I've read. Others I'll never read. I've tried borrowing them from the library instead but that doesn't work.

    They don't just furnish the room. They are the room.

    Some years ago, before I could google for information I paid £50 for all 24 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica 1963 edition. A lot of it may be out of date but the vast majority isn't. All books came with a made to measure bookcase. It is also good furniture
  • Books breed. They've taken over my study. There piles of them under my coffee table and in a tottering pile in my living room. There are more on the landing upstairs and some in boxes in my bedroom. There are cookery books in the kitchen. There are books in the attic.

    I get rid of some but others grow in their place. Some I've read. Others I'll never read. I've tried borrowing them from the library instead but that doesn't work.

    They don't just furnish the room. They are the room.

    This.
  • ChastMastrChastMastr Shipmate
    Could i ask why you feel the need to reduce more, when you clearly have good reasons for keeping what you have?

    This.
  • ChastMastrChastMastr Shipmate
    I recommend Marie Kondo’s “keep what sparks joy” as an approach.
  • BoogieBoogie Heaven Host
    Telford wrote: »
    Books breed. They've taken over my study. There piles of them under my coffee table and in a tottering pile in my living room. There are more on the landing upstairs and some in boxes in my bedroom. There are cookery books in the kitchen. There are books in the attic.

    I get rid of some but others grow in their place. Some I've read. Others I'll never read. I've tried borrowing them from the library instead but that doesn't work.

    They don't just furnish the room. They are the room.

    Some years ago, before I could google for information I paid £50 for all 24 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica 1963 edition. A lot of it may be out of date but the vast majority isn't. All books came with a made to measure bookcase. It is also good furniture

    When the electricity goes off you’ll be fine for information, if slightly out of date. 🙂

  • PriscillaPriscilla Shipmate
    We have bookcases in every room bar the bathroom and that is only because it is a wet room. I always said I would never have a book case in the bathroom, but for various reasons, we ended up with a spare small book case and the only place it would go was in the bathroom. We could identify with Pratchett’s Reader in the Smallest Room!
    We keep buying books, Darllenwr in particular. There is a stack on the kitchen table. We have some of his grandfather’s books and also some of his father’s.
    We’re not quite as bad as the parents of one of our college friends who had a room filled with stacks of books with pathways between them. Mr and Mrs D put it into their wills that some other friends should arrange for the disposal of them.
  • NenyaNenya All Saints Host, Ecclesiantics & MW Host
    ChastMastr wrote: »
    I recommend Marie Kondo’s “keep what sparks joy” as an approach.

    I came across someone somewhere on the internet at some point who said something like, "I tried the Marie Kondo method of decluttering when if it doesn’t bring you joy, throw it out. So far I’ve thrown out the electric bill, the vegetable rack, the scales and my bra."
  • PuzzlerPuzzler Shipmate
    My family want me to get rid of the two small oak bookcases, one each side of the ( small by their standards) television, but I told them they are part of my comfort zone. That shut them up.

    Good job I previewed and edited as I had typed an i instead of a u in my last sentence.
  • betjemaniacbetjemaniac Shipmate
    Telford wrote: »
    Books breed. They've taken over my study. There piles of them under my coffee table and in a tottering pile in my living room. There are more on the landing upstairs and some in boxes in my bedroom. There are cookery books in the kitchen. There are books in the attic.

    I get rid of some but others grow in their place. Some I've read. Others I'll never read. I've tried borrowing them from the library instead but that doesn't work.

    They don't just furnish the room. They are the room.

    Some years ago, before I could google for information I paid £50 for all 24 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica 1963 edition. A lot of it may be out of date but the vast majority isn't. All books came with a made to measure bookcase. It is also good furniture

    My dad brought that set home from his school (he was a teacher) in the mid 1990s when they were going to be skipped. Much of it is not so much outdated as overtaken, there are some articles that definitely wouldn't be safe for modern sensibilities, but overall as a treasure trove of knowledge it still stands up - you just need to read it through a discerning lens.
  • Jane RJane R Shipmate
    The Marie Kondo approach doesn't work if you are suffering from clinical depression, because in that state *nothing* brings you joy and you may decide to throw everything out so you don't have to dust it. Or, alternatively, you don't have the mental energy to decide so you keep everything.

    And books don't always bring you joy. Sometimes enlightenment, sometimes a trigger for grief, sometimes escape from a cruel reality. Sometimes just a way to pass the time. All are valuable.
  • Jane R wrote: »
    The Marie Kondo approach doesn't work if you are suffering from clinical depression, because in that state *nothing* brings you joy and you may decide to throw everything out so you don't have to dust it. Or, alternatively, you don't have the mental energy to decide so you keep everything.

    And books don't always bring you joy. Sometimes enlightenment, sometimes a trigger for grief, sometimes escape from a cruel reality. Sometimes just a way to pass the time. All are valuable.

    Wise words. During a difficult time many years ago I threw out books and papers that I have regretted ever since., but I have also thrown some that perpetuated bad memories.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    The first thing I would throw out is Marie Kondo's book.
  • TelfordTelford Deckhand, Styx
    Telford wrote: »
    Books breed. They've taken over my study. There piles of them under my coffee table and in a tottering pile in my living room. There are more on the landing upstairs and some in boxes in my bedroom. There are cookery books in the kitchen. There are books in the attic.

    I get rid of some but others grow in their place. Some I've read. Others I'll never read. I've tried borrowing them from the library instead but that doesn't work.

    They don't just furnish the room. They are the room.

    Some years ago, before I could google for information I paid £50 for all 24 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica 1963 edition. A lot of it may be out of date but the vast majority isn't. All books came with a made to measure bookcase. It is also good furniture

    My dad brought that set home from his school (he was a teacher) in the mid 1990s when they were going to be skipped. Much of it is not so much outdated as overtaken, there are some articles that definitely wouldn't be safe for modern sensibilities, but overall as a treasure trove of knowledge it still stands up - you just need to read it through a discerning lens.

    Does history go out of date or is it always out of date ?
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate
    Speaking as an historian, both. ;^)
  • HarryCHHarryCH Shipmate
    A simple reason to keep a book is that it may be irreplaceable. Even if a book is reprinted, it may lose its illustrations and other features. Many books are never reprinted at all. I am always hesitant to throw away or give away something irreplaceable.
  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host, Circus Host
    David was an avid reader, and after he died I sent at least a dozen bankers' boxes* full of books to a charity shop, as I knew I'd never read them. The books I kept almost fill three small bookcases, and I'm very selective about what I buy, as I have very limited space to accommodate any more.

    * that didn't include any of his hymnals, anthem books or assorted other books of or about church music; they were given to his successor at the Cathedral.
  • TrudyTrudy Heaven Host
    I am an avid reader with a lifetime collection of books, but for reasons of convenience and eyesight I do almost all my reading on e-books nowadays. I've started to think of the books still in the house as my "permanent collection" and I'll now rarely buy a copy of a book in paper unless I've already e-read it (or listened to the audiobook) and determined it's a favourite that deserves shelf space. I've done a lot of culling the last few years, and even more in the past year due to the experience of cleaning out my book-loving parents' house when my dad moved into an apartment -- overwhelming, and very similar to what @Stercus Tauri described above!

    We have built-in bookshelves all over, and there will still be a large collection of books for my children to either inherit or get rid of when I die -- but at least it will be a meaningful collection of books I truly love, rather than a random collection of books that just wandered into the house somehow.
  • ChastMastrChastMastr Shipmate
    Nenya wrote: »
    ChastMastr wrote: »
    I recommend Marie Kondo’s “keep what sparks joy” as an approach.

    I came across someone somewhere on the internet at some point who said something like, "I tried the Marie Kondo method of decluttering when if it doesn’t bring you joy, throw it out. So far I’ve thrown out the electric bill, the vegetable rack, the scales and my bra."

    ROTFL!!
  • ChastMastrChastMastr Shipmate
    Jane R wrote: »
    The Marie Kondo approach doesn't work if you are suffering from clinical depression, because in that state *nothing* brings you joy and you may decide to throw everything out so you don't have to dust it. Or, alternatively, you don't have the mental energy to decide so you keep everything.

    And books don't always bring you joy. Sometimes enlightenment, sometimes a trigger for grief, sometimes escape from a cruel reality. Sometimes just a way to pass the time. All are valuable.

    I don’t think she means joy in the sense here – but your mileage may vary. ❤️
  • ChastMastrChastMastr Shipmate
    Caissa wrote: »
    The first thing I would throw out is Marie Kondo's book.

    Everyone is different. I find the principles in it really helpful. I just need to make myself do it… And probably with help.
  • I agree with @Telford's point about the aesthetics. I've got shelves full of 19th and early 20th editions of classics and some earlier and very fragile books - such as Baxter's 'The Saints' Everlasting Rest'.

    They are there simply because we inherited them or bought them in second-hand bookshops and they look great alongside my late wife's 'Gaudy Welsh' pottery and other knick-knacks. I'm sure Telford's house is tidier than mine.

    I've got some books climbing up the stairs now. I have a good friend who keeps buying all his pals poetry collections when he attends a reading. I've got signed copies of work by poets I don't particularly like and can't be bothered to read but would feel mean giving them away.

    The guy means well and is ever so sweet. But he once bought me a whole box load of a 1960s literary journal hoping that I'd go round regularly to read through them with him. He bought himself the other set. I've not even looked at them and they're teetering on a top shelf.

    Added to that, I'm putting a collection together of poems by the group I run and those of past or deceased members, some of whom published collections. So I'm going through those.

    I'm also doing some historical research for an idea I have for a novel so have boxes full of books I've accumulated for that.

    I do intend to downsize at some point, but so far I've resisted turning my daughters' old bedrooms into libraries, partly because there's still plenty of their stuff in there. But I can see books making their way in and colonising those spaces too.

    Particularly as my brother and I need to sort my mother's bungalow out.

    I am going to drown in books.
  • RockyRogerRockyRoger Shipmate
    When I were a lad we had a large set of encyclopedias bought by my father before WW II. Beautifully bound. (the books, not my father). One volume was called. 'Fun to Hug', which I thought was delightful. Under a list of 'new words' it had, 'triplane'. I used these volumes extensively for school essays (this was in the late 1950s/early 1960s). The essays invariably came back with corrections - how was I to know rabbits were not classified as rodents? I could go on.

    These days I go to Wikki every time, but I trust Groves 'History of Music and Musicians' will never be out of date.
  • CaissaCaissa Shipmate

    Caissa wrote: »
    The first thing I would throw out is Marie Kondo's book.


    Chastmaster wrote:Everyone is different. I find the principles in it really helpful. I just need to make myself do it… And probably with help.

    Caissa replies: Kondo suggested keeping fewer than 30 books. That syndrome will likely appear in the DSM VI.
  • Fewer than 30?

    Aaaarghh!
  • NenyaNenya All Saints Host, Ecclesiantics & MW Host
    Fewer than 30?
    It's only a suggestion and she means, naturally, 30 per subject or per author. :wink:

  • EigonEigon Shipmate
    Terry Pratchett's Discworld series has 41 books in it, and that's just for starters!
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