I threw away a lot of my books last night. All right, that’s a bit overly dramatic: I selected almost a hundred books to donate to our library.Went through my collection, shelf by shelf, and pulled forth those that didn’t make the cut to toss them onto a growing pile by my feet. Bloated fantasy doorstoppers that I know I’ll never read again. Duplicates of classic texts such as Animal Farm and The Stranger. Marketing books that I purchased during a misguided phase when I thought I might actually become a smart business type. Recently published YA novels that I had hoped would be brilliant and were actually only all right. Works by favorite authors that weren’t up to their usual standard.

Why the culling? The decimation? We’re moving in seven weeks. Packing everything either into a Pod or the back of my car, and driving some 1,600 miles north. Which means following the Spaceballs maxim: take only what you need to survive. Which in this case means 80% of my books.

Still, it felt strange to select books and toss them aside. To decide I would never read David Eddings again. That so many Stephen King books could go. Often my hand would hesitate, hover over a given novel as I stared at its spine and deliberated. Will I read this again? Do I need it? 


Yes to Lovecraft, Gene Wolfe, my Sandman comics. No to Goodkind, to Christopher Pike, to many of David Gemmel’s substandard work. Keep the collected Poe. Discard the Stross. Keep the Mieville. Ditch the Duncton Wood. Keep my father’s old collection of Pohl, Vogt, Blish, Asimov, Dick, McCaffery, LeGuin. Let go of childhood favorites which I’ve only held onto due to nostalgia. Keep, discard. Keep, discard.

A strange sacrilege, to drop books to the ground. To empty out my shelves. To think: if you were electronic I would keep you. But you are paper, you are bulky and take up space, and so I shall let you go.


What about you guys? When’s the last time you culled your book collection, and what was your criteria for letting go?