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
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
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.