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?