Law and Conversation

August 19, 2011

Getting rid of books?

Filed under: Books and writing — Helen Gunnarsson @ 4:21 pm
Tags: , , ,

Lawyers create and receive so much paper that lots of us have serious paper clutter, organization, and retention problems–so much that bar associations and other CLE providers give seminars on how to address it. Though I don’t currently practice law, and though I route as much mail to the recycling bin as possible the minute it comes in the door, I still have a paper clutter problem–I think it’s partly genetic ;-).

I also have a book clutter issue. My family all loves to read, and we love having lots of books on our shelves. If we’ve already read them, we might reread or refer to them–plus, when we really love them, they seem like friends. We also have lots of books we haven’t yet read but want to. And we’re not big fans of e-readers, yet–though I daresay I’ll start using and even liking one at some point.

The result is that we have a LOT of bookshelves, and they’re all full. In fact, books are double-shelved on all of them. Our nightstands have not only nice, broad tops with plenty of surface space for stacks of books in addition to lamps and clocks, but also handy, roomy shelves underneath that are just right for–more books. I catch myself eying wall space and considering whether, with some rearranging, another tall bookshelf might fit.

It’s really hard for me to make decisions about culling books. But I’ve had to face some reality: we don’t have unlimited space for new acquisitions. I use the public library for most books I want to read and am working on reconciling myself to getting rid of some books that I’m reasonably confident the library will continue to keep available. Though we’re mourning the demise of Borders, we are lucky to have a Half Price Books outlet in our area. It’s a good deal to take in 2 bags of books you don’t want and know nobody in your household is ever going to read again and exchange them for one book that you really do want and will read or use, as I did last year: you win and the business wins.

Apparently we’re in good company, for I’ve been seeing a number of articles lately on this very issue. When a friend raised it lately on her Facebook/Twitter feed, I remembered a podcast of the CBC’s The Sunday Edition I’d listened to some months ago with a roundtable discussion among several passionate booklovers about weeding out books, led by host Michael Enright.

I wanted to send the link to my friend so she could listen to it, too, but I’d deleted it from my iPod after listening, and couldn’t find it on the CBC’s website. So I messaged the producer with my question. A few days later, I got a nice response with the link to the program with the discussion. It’s in the second half of Hour Two.

Thanks so much, CBC! I love listening to this program as well as several others on podcast as I’m going about my errands here in suburban Chicago. Once again, the internet is bringing the world closer together!

How do you deal with clearing out books?


  1. Sorry for the delay, but I lost my post from my phone when we were heading to Wisco last weekend.

    I’ve read so many more books because of Kindle. I also have the Kindle app on my phone and that lets me read even when I don’t think I’ll have tome to read. As I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project I realized I could finish that book before book club with just a few moments a day. I didn’t need to carve out chunks of time to get it done. I took the same approach with Little Bee and I’m proud to say finished it 8 days before book club.

    My cooking books would be read on the fly, I use them for inspiration as well as what the author thought was a good idea, if their publishers would only see the value in having them available electronically. The same goes for a beloved and treasured out of print cook book as well.

    There’s definitely a place for a lover of the written word to have an e-reader.

    Comment by Ava George Stewart — August 26, 2011 @ 6:03 pm | Reply

  2. I wonder whether some books are more Kindle-friendly than others? I can definitely see how an e-reader would facilitate reading “The Happiness Project,” which I also really liked, but I think that I’d prefer a paper copy of Proust, where I might have to flip back and forth a lot and really concentrate on reading and comprehending it. I recently read an article about chefs’ use of e-readers–I forget where, in The Wall Street Journal, maybe?–and liked the practice of one of the chefs quoted of putting all of his recipes on a dedicated iPad, with annotations and photos of the completed dishes.

    Comment by Helen Gunnarsson — August 26, 2011 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

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