Get Rid of My Books?!

Want to hear a secret? Used bookstores actually want you to clean off your bookshelf.

(Okay, I guess it’s not a secret anymore.)

And no, I don’t mean that used bookstores want you to keep your bookshelves neat and tidy – we actually want you to go through, prune out the ones that are less important to you, and get rid of them. But why would a bookseller tell you to have less books?! Shouldn’t we be encouraging you to read?

Absolutely. Reading is good for you. Reading is good for your community. Reading is good for your children. And for obvious reasons, reading is good for your local bookstore. But because we’re a used bookstore, we have a slightly different approach than Barnes & Noble. A new bookstore will encourage you to buy books – any books – and keep on buying them. They don’t care if you buy 100 copies of Pride and Prejudice this month, because they’re just going to keep on ordering them.

The difference is, to keep our books affordable, we sell them used. We don’t get them from a catalog, we get them from readers. We get them from you. So while we would love to sell you a copy of Pride and Prejudice, we need another copy to fill its place. We’re halfway between a new bookstore and a library – you can keep the copy till you die if you like, but if you return it, we can sell it to someone new. If you didn’t happen to like Pride and Prejudice, we want to get that book into the hands of someone who loves it.

With that in mind, there are a few good ways to prune your bookshelves. You always can do a New Years overhaul, an ambitious way to clean out your books. Go through and rate your books – anything below three stars needs a new home. Or you can use my husband’s favorite question: If I live to be 100, will I read this book again? If the answer is no, it’s just taking up space.

Now, if the book is decorative, that’s fine. But do keep in mind, there are plenty of beautiful books out there that you do like. You can always upgrade a few of your old paperbacks and end up with a gorgeous copy of a book you love.

Another good way to prune your shelves is to keep only one bookshelf. When you’ve run out of room, don’t cram them all in on top of each other – go through and find your least favorite, then bring those books in to us. The advantage of keeping a small selection of books is that after a few years, you end up with only the “best and brightest” in your home. Nobody will ever find a bad book on your shelves.

My favorite system is to go through about once a month and just ask myself, “Would I recommend this book?” If I would, I’ll probably loan it out, so it’s worth keeping. If not, why do I still have it, anyway? I’m probably not going to reread it.

Now, if you’re attached to your books, maybe one bookshelf sounds insane. (I personally have… quite a few more than that.) But when you find yourself trying to make space for a new arrival, maybe it’s time to let one fly the coop. You’re not throwing it away – you’re sending it to a loving home.