Packing up your life and moving has never been my favorite thing to do, and as I slowly whittle away at our book collection, I’m glad that we sold a lot of them to used bookstores like Half-Price. Over the years, I’ve become intensely picky about the books I buy out of necessity (lack of shelf space) and have developed a criteria which I’ve used to weed out my book collection.
1. Can you find it in the library?
The public library is one of the greatest inventions, ever. And King County has one of the better library systems in the United States. Thousands upon thousands of books available to me — for free! You can’t beat free!
Because of this, I’ve sold most of my fiction and a lot of my non-fiction that I enjoyed but didn’t make it into any of my top lists. Libraries are not going away any time soon (I hope), and maybe a reliance on the library will help motivate me to provide more support for the library systems around me. Plus, there’s no reason to try and overlap our collections — the public library ninety-nine times out of a hundred will do a better job than I will with my limited income. Better to focus our resources on building a library that really reflects who we are as a family, which leads me to my next criterion.
2. Can you buy it easily?
Because I can find most books I want in the library, I keep only keep the ones that I really like (Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris, for example), and when I do go peruse the bookstore, I try to find things that are rare. Trawling through the clearance sections of used bookstores, for example, can often procure amazing treasures that you can’t find anywhere else. If you can buy a book at Barnes and Noble or Borders or Amazon easily, then you can probably find it at the library. The last few books I’ve purchased have mostly been from either academic presses or independent publishers. That way, any book I own I can genuinely justify by citing the fact that they may actually be rare someday, and by keeping them in good condition, I extend the shelf life of knowledge.
Through these two criteria, I’ve managed to whittle the book collection down by quite a bit, but apparently by not enough.