We're doing our spring cleaning at home a little late in the season, in order to turn a basement den into a small apartment for my sister. Unfortunately for me, the basement den is where I've stored about half my books, so now I have to find room for them upstairs. Except, if there were room upstairs for the books, they'd have already been up here. So you know what that means: it's time to cull.
Culling out books is hard for me. I'm a collector by nature, and many of these books I've had since childhood. But as I go through the books, I'm finding that many books that once meant a lot to me I can now get rid of without much pain.
Writing books have been some of the more obvious casualties, now that I'm published and know more about what it takes to be a writer. The books that were once so valuable to me for their information and support are now headed to charity or the local library in hopes that they educate and inspire other aspiring writers still reaching for the brass ring of publication. Also gone are the piles of romances and other novels I bought over the years as I tried to find my niche as a writer. Not all of them, of course; the ones that spoke to me, that helped me find my genre and my voice, stay on my shelves in an honored place.
I have books I bought as reference material for a specific novel that I'm now getting rid of because the novel is written, or the reference book turned out to be useless. I have books that I'm getting rid of because they're literally falling apart at the seams or they duplicate, in some way, other books I have. (I have a large Shakespeare compendium I bought in college that's in wonderful shape; what's the point in holding onto those little paperback versions of specific plays?)
The classics stay, even if I didn't enjoy them, because I have nieces in grammar school who aren't too far from needing those books for their studies. I have books that I seldom read but keep for sentimental reasons, like the books written by a writer friend who passed away tragically early from cancer. I kept my college textbooks forever, but I'm finally letting some of them go--Algebra, Trigonometry--while I hold onto others--Zoology, Spanish, all my English textbooks--because I think they might be useful to me yet. Who knows when I might write about a hunky biologist and a sassy English professor who end up on the run in South America? (...jotting that idea down in the idea file...)
I've often played along with the old game, "If you were stranded on a deserted island, what's the one book you'd want to have with you?" It's fun to speculate. It's not so much fun, however, to have to reduce your book collection by nearly half. I can attest to that personally.
However, I do think I could probably come up with a list of five books I'd have to have with me: The Bible, Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SHAKESPEARE, THE STAND by Stephen King and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. (But I sure would miss ROBERT FROST'S POEMS, PERSUASION, JANE EYRE, the Harry Potter books and THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN).
So, what about you? If you had to trim your book collection drastically, what would go? What would stay? Or is this a subject too horrifying to contemplate?