I just read this post on Lakeside Musings and this one awhile back on chaotic compendiums. Many libraries practice what is called "book weeding" but I think it's a great idea for home collections as well.
One of my favorite non-book blogs is called Unclutterer, which I discovered relatively recently and have already found to be very inspiring. What's great about Unclutterer is that it's all about restraint and responsibility but it's also not extreme or countercultural. It's not about asceticism or anti-consumerism. The goal of Unclutterer is to help people clear out all those excess possessions in life that must be constantly straightened and put away, kept track of, worried about, searched for, tripped over, and so forth. One of the first things I did was clear off my desk at work. I put all my pens, paperclips, Post-Its, reference books, etc into a drawer, so all I have out is my monitor, keyboard, dictation machine, a little picture, and a little shelf system for folders I'm working on. Law offices can be hectic places and there are times when my desk is just full of STUFF. But the less I have to begin with, the easier it is for me. Sometimes just looking at visual clutter can raise stress levels.
Personally, I think some of Unclutterer's advice about books and book storage goes a little too far for a bookworm like me. For example, they're all about Amazon Kindle and other digital options, but for most of us, part of the reading experience is being able to hold a physical book. Unclutterer also recommends not buying any book that is in the public domain and can be found in its entirety online. Again, that may be a great idea for some people, but not for me. To be fair, however, a lot of audiophiles balked at Unclutterer's suggestion that we rip our CDs to our computers and then get rid of the CD itself. Part of the of the music-listening experience, they argued, was possessing the actual, physical CD or record, along with the liner notes. I thought it was a great idea (I seriously had way too many CDs) but I totally understand their position. Uncluttering is all about what works for you.
With that in mind, here are my suggestions for keeping your book volume under control. I mean, they're pretty obvious, but I just felt inspired to write something.
1. Don't use the bookstore as a library. Buy only those books that you strongly believe you will refer back to for favorite quotes and passages and will one day re-read.
2. Try to avoid the "book" section of your local drugstore. There's absolutely nothing wrong with "low-brow" stuff, of course (I LOVE Star Trek books), but, let's face it, fluff is not filling and gets stale very quickly. Before you know it, you'll have bookshelves full of cheap paperbacks.
3. BUT, on the other hand, don't buy books that you only think you should own because you want to impress people or just because they look cool. Some books, for example, have a badass reputation. They've been banned for decades and frequently challenged. They were, and maybe still are, controversial. I read William S. Burroughs's Naked Lunch in high school. To my teenaged mine, this was SHOCKING! OMG, my parents would be HORRIFIED. So I went and bought several more Burroughs books. And, uh, had no idea what he was talking about, except that it was, um . . . rather grotesque. Last year, I dumped them off (except Naked Lunch, which I do actually like) at the local booksale.
4. DONATE. Libraries and community booksales are great places. My favorite coffee place has a few shelves where people leave books for other patrons to enjoy. I've deposited a few there myself. There's also the PaperBackSwap.com, which I've never tried but have heard great things about. I've also heard of charities that collect books for prison libraries and other organizations that send books to our troops overseas. I'm sure there are other worthy places out there too.
5. MONEY! You can sell used books on Amazon, Ebay, and other like places. Consignment stores are another option for books in good condition, especially hardcovers.
6. Lastly, don't feel guilty about getting rid of a book you never read and maybe never liked. There's surely someone out there who will feel differently.
What do you think? What are your thoughts or suggestions on book selection and book weeding?