An Impossible Task: Culling My Book Collection

An Impossible Task: Culling My Book Collection

Knowing that my books were going to be sent off on a new readerly adventure buoyed me: instead of that on-the-edge swimmer, I was floating about in the shallows. So I set myself a rather ambitious goal: to donate or give away a) every book on my shelves that I’ve read and b) the books that I’m realistically never going to read. Thus far I’ve managed to pass along several hundred books.

Unfortunately, although I’m attempting to get into the gregarious, magnanimous mind-set that all of this requires, I’m not quite as charitable as I’d like to believe. Each time I put an armload of books into the donate pile I find myself reconsidering and second-guessing. Each time, at least a couple of those books find their way back on my shelves, or in the to-read stack by the bed. A stack that is now toppling.

It’s a difficult undertaking, because all of those books in my bookshelves are there for a reason. They’re all a little bit of me. The ones that I’ve read are a memory; the ones that I haven’t are a possibility. I’ve had to play games with myself, set myself mini challenges in order to get further ahead with this task: I must donate five ugly books, or all of my classics, which I can, anyway, find online. I’ve also had to allow myself some indulgences. Unlike my editor friend, I will not be giving away my signed books (and certainly not the signed Charles de Lint book I took off my editor friend’s hands), or my slipcased collector’s editions. Or the very first book that my husband ever bought me. Or the hollowed-out book with which he proposed.

I have, however, been taking a leaf out of my friend’s spiritual book, in a way at least. Ever so slowly, and not entirely fruitfully (I have two new books smiling up at me at this very moment) I’ve been trying to shift my reading identity away from being a book collector and towards being solely a reader. Hopefully by thinking of books less as artefacts, by eschewing that idea that my reading memories are attached to the physical book itself, I can clear out my shelves in preparation for the move.

But who am I kidding, really? I know as well as you do that this is a case of extended double-think. That even if I do completely clear out my bookshelves in time for the move, it will only be a matter of time before I have a brand new book collection testing the structural integrity of my shelves.

Perhaps I should stop attempting to channel my inner Buddhist and start channelling international freight companies instead.

Stephanie is a book blogger and middle grade author. She writes for Read in a Single Sitting.

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