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Getting control of books

In college I gained almost 100 pounds. About five were around my hips, the rest was in the books that I’ve been carrying around and adding to ever since. Hi, my name is Angela and I’m a biblioholic.

As a writer and editor, I justify my personal library as reference material and inspiration. Truth is, I haven’t dipped into the collected works of Chaucer since spring 1988 finals. So why do I keep it? A) It’s a hardback B) It’s a classic and C) I’ve had it this long …

If you have the room, a personal library is a wonderful thing. For a lot of you, you may not have the room now, but could see yourself dedicating a wall or a room to books later on in life.

Here’s my purge/keep strategy regarding books: Keep only what you’ll either read again, or use as reference or hand down to your children (collectible editions, a set of classics, your favorite children’s books). That does not include the set of Encyclopedia Brittanica from the 1970s! Young’uns look up everything online, so you’re only fooling yourself if you think those two-ton sets of encyclopedia will come in handy.

Another easy place to purge: pulp fiction. Romances and thrillers read on vacation can easily be recycled or donated. My trick is to leave them on the plane or in the hotel. If you have a designated guest room or cottage, you might store the best of these there for sleepless travelers. But keep it reasonable; 10 of these volumes are enough.

Let’s talk about the college textbooks. These are usually very expensive, so parting with them can be tough. Also, a course may have been life changing and the book is a reminder of how much you’ve learned grown and changed. But in addition to being pricey, these books are heavy! As the years go by, you will likely want to part with the majority of them.

For the rest, I like to organize by category. Alphabetizing or giving Dewey decimal numbers to a large collection would be an agony I wouldn’t recommend to anyone who doesn’t hold a library science degree. Instead, just group novels, poetry, biography, cookbooks, spiritual literature, business and other categories together.

I’ve seen homes where the books are grouped according to their binding color and even one that had the bindings facing the back of the bookshelves so that only the white pages of the books show. In these cases, the books are simply a design element in the room, not a working library.

It’s my book collection that really helps me to empathize with my clients regarding their collections and keepsakes. Now that my bookcases are completely full, I am holding myself to a golden rule: For every new book that comes in, one old book must go out (meaning resell, donate or give away).

P.S. Chaucer is in the car with Goldie Hawn’s biography and “The French Laundry Cookbook” (who am I kidding?) waiting to be taken to their new owners.