The Book Project

Back in spring of this year, I embarked on a project that has taken me months to complete. That project? Downsizing my book collection.

Anyone that knows me would have a hard time figuring out why I embarked on such a project. After all, I am the girl who routinely received stacks of books for birthdays and Christmas. I am also the girl who frequently proclaimed that I was a minimalist in everything except for coffee mugs and books. I sold over half my mugs in April. It was time to look at the books.

One late spring weekend, I jumped off the fence, made the decision. I may take a while to become ready but once I actually choose, I waste no time. I started taking books off the shelf and stacked them on the floor by my two largest bookshelves.

The project worked as follows First, all books I had purchased or received as gifts within the last year stayed in my collection. I began curating my collection with increased vigor around that time. Second, all of my classics, history books, and books in Spanish stayed. I know the value of all of those. Third, a handful of other books stayed on the shelves like everything by Tolkein and Lewis. Fourth, I would read each book in the series and be willing to part with some of a series but not all. (I am just a tad OCD). Fifth, if I did not love a book, regardless of quality, I would set it aside to donate.

With these parameters in mind, I set to work on what I termed the second round of the purge from personal collection. Yes, I did this once before, four years ago. I purged more than five large reusable bags full of books then. By the time May 2017 rolled around my collection surpassed 600 in number. Even though I eliminated many books from my collection in the first round, I approached this round with increased vigor.

Surprisingly, almost every book I reread during that first month ended up back on my shelf. I started to wonder whether I was being harsh enough in my evaluation and even sometimes if I was wasting my reading time since so many of these books found their way back into my collection.

As the weeks progressed, the stacks on the floor grew smaller while the stacks on or under the bench, the donation spot, grew larger. I relocated a couple stacks of children and young adult books to my classroom when the new school year started. I had held onto these books for that “someday” of having a library in my own house for future children. It took years but I was finally ready to relinquish my hold on that “what if” and put the books to actual use. Sometimes the stacks decreased slowly. Other times I cut them in half by donating an entire series. Why waste time on lackluster prose when the first book is so terrible you find yourself questioning the judgment of your past self.

As I write this entry, one tiny stack of four books remain, the last four books in the O’Malley series by Dee Henderson. Of the three bookshelves I cleared (and one shelf from my large book case) only one is filled to capacity again. One stands completely empty. The third holds barely more than one shelf’s worth. I did not count the books as I donated them. If I had to guess, I would estimate that I have donated around two hundred books. I did not read all of them; my total for 2017 stands right now at a mere 163. (Of course, that is stated with the upmost irony.) That rough estimate includes the couple stacks now inhabiting my classroom library as well as other extended series donated after a disappointing reread of the first book.

At the end of the year, while I have lost the status of owning over 600 books, I have gained so much more. At many times in my life I valued my books too much; I valued my goals too much. This process helped me gain a better perspective on what’s really important.

It also reignited my love of reading, which is always nice.

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