I have relocated every year for the past 4 years. And once a year, for the past 4 years, I have packed all my books into boxes, and dragged, tugged, and heaved them along with me. Classics, modern novels, textbooks, self help books, reference books, cookbooks, biographies, political books, relationship books and more- all of them have been packed, unpacked, and repacked four times! I kept some books because I wanted to read them or thought I might need to read them someday, I kept some because I thought I should read them someday, and I kept some because I had already read them, and used to love them. Curiously, the one thing I rarely did is actually read any of my books! Can anyone relate to this?!
When I got married, my husband’s books were added to the mix as well, but thankfully he has a fraction of the books I own. All combined, we owned enough books to fill two tacky “Room Essentials” bookshelves from Target with a few extra books shoved in random places around the house.
This past move, I decided I was sick and tired of moving all those books! They had become a drag, literally and metaphorically. Each time I thought I might like to read a book, I would get overwhelmed by looking at all the options, or feel a sense of obligation to read books I wasn’t interested in anymore. I felt like I should read the books I had, before buying or borrowing any new books. Silly, I know, but that’s the way my brain worked.
I had gone through our books before and thinned them out, but this time I was ruthless. I don’t remember using any “criteria” to determine which books to keep and which to get rid of, but generally, if a book could easily be found at the library, it was donated. If a book had been sitting on my shelf for the past 5 years without me actually reading it, I got rid of it. If I wasn’t interested in the topic anymore, I got rid of it. I realized that there’s no reason to keep books that don’t fit into my interests or life stage.
All told, my husband and I donated over half of our books to the Good Will, which also allowed us to get rid of one of our bookcases. I expected to enjoy the extra space we gained by getting rid of the books, but I didn’t expect that I would start reading so much more as well!
Letting go of all those books freed me to start pursuing current interests by reading new books. If I hear of a book I want to read, I look for it at the library, or in our library’s e-book collection. I’ve also bought some e-books on amazon and some hard copies from thrift stores. The wonderful thing about borrowing books from the library, is that you have a reason to start reading because you have “deadline” for finishing the book. Also, if you start reading something and then realize you don’t like it, it’s not a big deal to stop reading it. I also keep a journal with a running list of all the books I’ve read since 2000. So if I really want to re-read a book, I can always look it up on my list and borrow it from the library, rather than owning it.
So how did getting rid of all those books impact my reading level? Well, last year, I read 7 books. (Pathetic, I know!) This year, I’ve read 12 books, and it’s only April! If I keep up the pace, I’ll have read 36 books by the end of the year, that’s 5 times more books than I read last year!
One thing I have learned from this experiment, is that books don’t have to stay in your life forever in order for you to enjoy them or get value from them. You don’t even have to read a book all the way through to get something out of it. Read it, take what you want, and then let it go. If you really need that book again in the future, it will come back to you. The true value of a book comes from what you take from it, not from what you put back on the shelf.
What about you? Do you have shelves full of books that aren’t being read? Are you in a reading rut? Maybe it’s time to let your books have a chance to inspire others, and make room in your life for new books!