The Cull

I can’t do it.

We have too many books in our household. OK, yes, I know that’s technically impossible. It’s not “too many books,” it’s “not enough shelves.” Except we have two rooms dedicated to nothing but shelves of books, along with several other shelves in each bedroom, the basement, and the living room. We’ve run out of room on the shelves. We have boxes of books we’ve bought in the last two years that have never been on the shelves. It’s time to go through and cull.

I adore books as artifacts. Even if I never read the books on the shelves, there’s something soothing about seeing all these worlds lined up, ready to invite you in. Holding a book calms me. As a child, I’d literally carry a stack of three or four books around with me in my house so I always had options to read, whether I was in the living room, dining room, any of those places that would be necessary to have a pile of books. So, yes, books have been a thing for me for a long time.

It’s worse now.

See, I know from experience how much work goes into a book. I know how much time, how much effort, how much blood goes into the ink that marks the pages – not just from the author, but from a cover artist, an editor, a publisher… How could I take a book from my shelf and just get rid of it? How could I belittle the effort that went into the artifact that is a book?

Then again, most authors would never know. I purchased their book, so they’ve been paid for their efforts. So I’m not really offending them, am I? And if I donate the book, I can share the joy of that book with someone else who may enjoy it.

If I saw one of my books in a used book shop, I’d actually smile. Actually, I’d probably sign it and put it back, just so someone got an extra surprise.

So, it’s not that big a deal, is it?

Yeah. It is. I still don’t like choosing books to leave. How can I select someone’s child to become homeless?

So, what am I doing?

As we work our way through our shelves, I’m asking these questions:

  • If I’ve read it, am I ever going to read it again?
  • If I haven’t read it, will I ever actually read it?
  • Is it a book I want on hand to lend to friends?
  • Is it a book I want on hand so my kids can read it?

If the answer to all those is “no,” it goes in a stack for my wife to evaluate. She also goes through the shelves, pulling any books that she has no interest in ever returning to. If we end up agreeing, the book is removed from the shelves to our donation or resell pile.

There’s a process, but man, it still hurts!

Have you ever had to cull your shelves? How did you go about it?

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