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Good-Bye, Books

I love the new year: not only is it time to plan and make resolutions, it’s also time to wrap up loose ends and launch new projects. This year is especially exciting because I am moving in the second week […]
| Dec 29, 2010 | No comments |

I love the new year: not only is it time to plan and make resolutions, it’s also time to wrap up loose ends and launch new projects. This year is especially exciting because I am moving in the second week of January.

That, of course, necessitates its own brand of wrapping up. I am saying good-bye to books. I just don’t have room for them where I’m going.

Before my fellow readers go into shock over that, let me modify the statement: I am saying good-bye to some books. Books I bought second-hand because they looked interesting, but which I never actually read. Books from my childhood that no longer matter. Reference books that are redundant or obsolete. Books I enjoyed (many of them titles I received through review programs like CSFF) but just won’t read again.

It pains me to say good-bye to even a single one. Good books are like friends, and mediocre ones are like people you’re not really that close to but still feel an obligation to mingle with, inquiring after their health every now and again. I’m telling myself that getting rid of books is not really like reneging on real friendship; it’s more like unfriending people on Facebook who I don’t actually know and never interact with.

Secretly, I have to admit to a feeling of relief. The bigger the pile on the floor gets and the more air is created on my shelves, the more I feel like a weight is lifting off.

So that my feeling of relief doesn’t run away with me, I’ve created criteria for keeping or ridding myself of books. I will keep anything that:

1. I will read again. This includes many of the excellent spec-fic writers I’ve discovered in the past two years, including books by George Bryan Polivka, Jeffrey Overstreet, Marc Schooley, and Jill Williamson. It also includes childhood favourites that DO still matter. I will read books again because I want to revisit the story, learn from the writing, absorb the worldview, etc. It also includes series titles where I want to read the whole series.

2. I will reference. This includes much of the nonfiction I’ve got, plus anything that’s highly quotable or that I can use as examples when I teach.

3. I will shove at anyone who dares breathe the words “I need something to read” in my presence. This includes books and/or authors that I may never reread, but that I consider highly wonderful or helpful.

4. I edited. I can’t help it; I’m a proud parent (or maybe “proud midwife” would be a more appropriate analogy). Plus, some of these titles fall into the above categories as well.

Knowing that most book collectors actually feel strongly about their books, I’d love to know about your criteria for hanging on to titles. Have you ever had to weed out your shelves? What stayed and what went and why?

E. Stephen Burnett is coauthor (with Ted Turnau and Jared Moore) of The Pop Culture Parent: Helping Kids Engage Their World for Christ, which will release in spring 2020 from New Growth Press. He also explores biblical truth and fantastic stories as editor in chief of Lorehaven Magazine and writer at Speculative Faith. He has also written for Christianity Today and Christ and Pop Culture. He and his wife, Lacy, live in the Austin area and serve as members of Southern Hills Baptist Church.

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Nikole Hahn
Guest

I had shelves and shelves of books inherited from our church library. I read some of them and alot of them I had good intentions of reading, but never got around to it. When I began reviewing books I realized I would have to get rid of alot of books. Thankfully, our youth group was having a rummage sale. Then, there was our staff white elephant gift exchange…lol.

Rachel Starr Thomson
Member

That works! I’ve actually “inherited” several shelves’ worth as well, many of them theological books from my great-uncle. I only got books I was really interested in, but I plan to weed them out according to the above criteria once I finish them.

Steve
Guest
Steve

I’m keeping all the books I’ve ever read that were good. I want my sons to read them when they are old enough and if I get rid of them that won’t happen. It’s part of my heritage. The messages found within the pages will pass on my worldview to them.

When the bookshelves in the house get too full then I box them and put them in the basement. If I read a book I find poor (for whatever reason, theologically or just plain bad) then it goes in the garbage. I’d rather trash a book then give it to someone who then ends up thinking all Christian literature stinks. I hate doing it but it’s necessary.

Rachel Starr Thomson
Member

Steve, I’ve actually hung onto a lot of books over the years for the purpose of passing on to children — I’m not married, but I may be someday, and I’ve got younger siblings. I would probably keep hanging onto those, but moving necessitates clearing out. At this point I’m giving most of those books to my siblings and looking forward to building my library back up someday. (But I am keeping a lot of children’s books too–all the ones I love and will read again.)

Rachel Starr Thomson
Member

Oh, and I meant to add that it’s awesome you’re thinking generationally about your books. My dad kept hundreds and hundreds of books for us, and even though he’s having to clear out a lot himself these days, they were HUGE in my education, in my spiritual growth, and in making me a reader — and a writer, I might add. So kudos to you!

Steve
Guest
Steve

Thanks. Hopefully one day my kids will say the same about me. My grandmother owned a bookstore and although we were not believers I abtained my love of reading from her.

Steve
Guest
Steve

And I obtained my spelling skills from government schools.

Eric Novak
Guest

Well since you’re getting rid of your book…. you should give them to me 😀

-Eric Novak

Rachel Starr Thomson
Member

Sure! But I fear you’ll have to pay the shipping.

Eric Novak
Guest

A good sized box of books could ship for 20 bucks or so- If these were good Christian books I wouldn’t mind paying that 😉

-Eric

Rachel Starr Thomson
Member

Well, I am in Canada, so I suspect the shipping might be more than that. But send me an e-mail at thomson.rachel AT gmail.com and I’ll let you know what I’m getting rid of :). Unfortunately, I think I may have already given away most titles you’d be interested in (my dad got most of them — like daughter, like father).

Terri Main
Guest

This is one of the reasons I read ebooks now almost exclusively. My Bro In law covered an entire wall of my living room with a 20X9 foot bookcase. It’s beautiful, but full, as are five other smaller bookcases.

But now, I’ve got an ereader with 700 more books on it. I may never get a chance to read them all, but I’m gonna try.

Anyway, I basically get rid of very old textbooks I got for free for classes I don’t teach any longer. I also get rid of those that the cat may have – er – enhanced aromatically. That pretty much covers it.

Rachel Starr Thomson
Member

I just wish e-books were as cozy and beautiful as physical ones!

Laughing about the cat. I am allergic to cats and will actually react to books that come from people with cats–I discovered this when I had a major allergic reaction to a library book!

Terri Main
Guest

Rachel, I guess I read for the words and one thing about the ereader is that I can adjust the size of the font. I used to think I would never want to read on a regular basis other than from a physical book. Then I got my ereader. Never went back. I can pick up my ereader and say, “Okay, which book do I want to read today?” If I get bored a couple of clicks and I’m on to another book. If the book has pictures, I can zoom in on them and see the details. Cover art never fades and the corners of the pages don’t fray.

I do think there will always be a place for books as objects d’arte. I think over time ebooks will replace cheap paperbacks but not well made hard covers. I think it will also increase reading, because they can just pull out their smartphone or ereader and read anytime they have a few minutes without having to carry a bunch of books around. Also, they can get older books and classics for free or very little cost.

Ereading might also revive the short story. My publisher has put out two of my short stories as ebooks for a couple of bucks each.

On a funny note, though. One of the things that makes reading with an ereader so enjoyable to me is that I can adjust the font size. The older I get, the more that matters to me. I was in a library doing some research a few weeks ago and I had a print volume with some fine print. I found myself pressing the corner of the page to pull up the menu to increase the font. 🙂

Rachel Starr Thomson
Member

I think you’re right–and I’m totally pro e-readers; don’t get me wrong! I have a Kobo, which I love, and I think e-reading is going to open up new worlds for writers and readers (already is). And I recognize the limits of physical books; for one thing, they take up a LOT of space. But in my heart, nothing will replace the appeal of old-fashioned paper and ink.

Ken Rolph
Guest
Ken Rolph

I recently wanted to re-read Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. It was available locally at our library via the home service bus, in a large print edition. I was able to read it without my glasses. I can see the advantage in that, although I tend to read a lot in the bath, and drop the books. Don’t know how an ereader would handle that. I keep my wife’s hairdryer on hand for whenever I get clumsy.

Most everyday reading will got digital in the future. Book objects will remain as beautiful things. I just got a copy of Ruth Park’s Muddleheaded Wombat. She has just died and a new edition of the complete wombat came out. It’s a large, beautiful hardback. Over Christmas the #1 grandson got over-excited. I sat next to him on the lounge while he was jumping up and down and opened the Muddleheaded Wombat. I just showed him the pictures and talked about them. He’s a bit young to stand for the full text. After a while he stopped jumping. Then he sat down. Then he leaned against me. Halfway through the book he was ready for bed. I suppose it is possible to do that with a Kindle, but possibly not as satisfying. Also I wouldn’t leave an ereader in the cot with #1 while he was supposed to be having an afternoon nap. Anyway, as I understand it the Kindle is still just black and white.

I’m finding that the books I’m buying lately are very beautiful and very expensive.

Zoe
Guest

Dude, so far the only books I’ve gotten rid of have been those of which I have multiple copies and the ones that were given to me as high school graduation gifts. One day while looking through my room trying to downsize my possessions, I informed my mom that I thought I needed to get rid of some books, and her response was that books are investments (my family has a hereditary hoarding condition). But now my rationale is, I’m going to get married and move into a house where I can store books in more than just my bedroom. My fiance and I dream of having a study wherein every wall is floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves. So . . . I can’t help you, sorry.

Ken Rolph
Guest
Ken Rolph

My wife and I have been married just over 39 years. The kids grew up and went out on their own. Now we have a study each. I have 4 bookcases, my wife has 3. We also have a full bookcase for videos/DVDs. After we had been married for a little while in the 1970s we decided to purge out books by getting rid of duplicates. At that stage we only had 1 joint bookcase, so we’ve added more than we’ve removed.

I’m sure I’ve got rid of books for good reasons, but I no longer remember them at all. The ones I remember are those I did get rid of and have since wanted to refer to again. There are many books from the middle of last century which are not going to make it to ebooks. After various purges in my life I have found myself later scouring second hand bookshops for those titles I had thought I wouldn’t need. So I’ve concluded that it is best not to get rid of books. Ebooks might help me stop accumulating them. The Kindle is now available with a battery charger for Australia. It wasn’t initially.

My high school graduation book was a John Wyndham omnibus (Triffids/Kraken/Chrysalids). I was allowed to nominate it because I had come first in the state in English language and brought prestige to the school. I keep it to reming me how much it annoyed the English teachers, who had been trying to get me to read “great literature”. But great literature is bigger than what you encounter at school.

Joshua O'Neal
Guest
Joshua O'Neal

I honestly keep….everything. I reread books at random. I’ll just suddenly feel an intense longing to go back and find a book I’d almost forgotten and read it over and over and go back and find paritcular scenes again!