Books in, books out…

This year, Beloved and I haven’t had an argument. Or rather, we haven’t had a specific argument – OK, not really an argument, more a discussion which has been known to get heated – that normally occurs around now. It’s known in our household as the Great Book Cull.

We love books but don’t have time to read as many of them as we’d like. We aim to read a book a week each, but normally fail. Fortunately our tastes coincide – we both primarily read SF – but not perfectly.  As a result each year brings about fifty new books into our house which need to be properly shelved (as opposed to piled up on the TBR shelves). Shelved or – brace yourself – thrown out. Now ‘thrown out’ actually means given away, to friends or charity, but even so we are in a minority amongst our friends in that we do not keep every book we read. I understand people who build extensions for their libraries but we made do with four large bookshelves, double-stacked.

However, finite space + 50 new books a year = hard decisions. Some books we agree on at the time. ‘Have you read this?’ ‘Yeah it’s great.’ ‘Right, that’s a keeper.’ And on to the shelves it goes. Or: ‘I really didn’t get on with this.’ ‘Me neither.’ And to the Oxfam bookshop it goes. Anything else gets put on the ‘pending’ pile. In January or February, we go through the pile. And discussions ensue. Because no matter how much one of us loved a book, if the other one hated it/would never read it, do we really need to keep it? And how about those books we both liked but aren’t sure we’d want to read again?

Last year, even after the Great Book Cull, the shelves were full. And so we conceded defeat and bought another bookcase. This involved moving  existing furniture and a trip to Ikea, both activities which hold no pleasure for us, but as a result we could unpack our groaning bookcases. And this year, able to see what’s what and with the illusion of space, we’ve shelved as we’ve gone along. So, no heated discussions necessary.

Oddly, all the shelves in the new bookcase now have something on them. I suspect the Book Cull will be back next year.


4 Responses to Books in, books out…

  1. Jacey Bedford 8 February 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    I used to be a librarian. My duties included (shock! horror!) weeding books out and throwing them away. You’d think it would have hardened me to the act of doing it on my own behalf, but sadly… no. I do cull books because my shelf space is also limited, but like you, I often seek ways to expand my storage and avoid the pain of decision-making.

    Luckily some (not all) of my problems have been resolved by buying ebooks. My kindle currently has upwards of 600 books stored on it. It’s like having Hermione’s handbag.

    I have discovered that, though I love the format of real paper books, ultimately it’s the words that matter. Kindle only works for books that need to be read in a linear fashion from beginning to end, however. It is less useful for the kind of non-fiction that a) you want to flick through and dip into for research, or b) has maps and illustrations.

    • Jaine 8 February 2014 at 4:43 pm #

      Ebooks have made a difference to our book-buying habits, and no doubt will continue to do so. But as you say, no good for reference books (and one of our most bulging bookshelves is non-fiction) and not the same as the physical object. We’ve taken to buying authors we don’t both like on Kindle, and that does cut down on the arguments.

  2. Frostfox 8 February 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    I bought a book from a charity shop with a book mark in it saying ‘Once you have read me, bring me back for someone else to read’.
    Get stuffed! Once you have come into my house, you are MINE.

    • Jaine 8 February 2014 at 9:02 pm #

      I’ve seen your bookshelves. A reckoning will come.

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