When I was younger I didn’t buy books. I read books at a great enough speed and in enough quality that the library was the only way to go. When I started working in a library I went through a brief and horrifying phase where I would rescue discarded library copies because I might read them someday. Then I started working at Books of Wonder with an employee discount and things really got out of hand. This doesn’t even factor review copies and gifted books from over the years. Not to mention author signings of which there are many because I live in New York.
I always read closely on my first read–taking time to write down quotes I want to remember and, now that I’m a reviewer, making sure to note key information and pages with important points to reference in my review–so I rarely re-read books except for a handful of exceptions.
People talk about dealing with their books in a lot of ways. Culling. Sorting. Organizing. Hoarding. Admiring. Brag shelves. TBR piles. Bookcases. Stashes. I’ve always thought of it as weeding since I have a library background.
Then last year I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō and I started thinking about getting rid of books in a different light. (I haven’t reviewed the book on here but I cannot recommend it highly enough. I really like the idea that you can take and leave what you want from her approach and also that you can find your own perfect balance.) One of the main tenets of the KonMari method is that you focus on what you want to keep instead of what you no longer want. You also keep things that bring you joy.
Now instead of thinking about it as weeding I have started to think about curating a personal library. What titles do I want to have on my shelves? What books do I want to own? What books would I re-buy if I lost them? And so on.
Again, as someone who doesn’t re-read, it’s not always enough to say I enjoy a book or that I want to come back to it. Sometimes even having a signed copy that I bought isn’t enough.
Then there are the difficult books with the prickly topics. Do I want to own a book that reminds me of when my aunt died? What about the novel with a strikingly resilient and strong heroine and a plot also mirrored some of the worst years of my life? Or the book that was painfully beautiful and romantic but also made me physically ill with its description of a character’s fingers being broken?
I think about books in a few ways when they’re on my shelves. There are books I want to keep close (the books I might flip through or reference, books from authors I admire or favorite stories I can’t stop thinking about, books that have a personal connection to me), there are books that make me smile (favorite stories, classic titles, things you would pry from my cold, dead hands), and then there are the mementos (books I got signed by authors I can almost call friends, titles from BEA, a book I’ve had since I was a child).
So the books I asked about before? I probably won’t be keeping those.
I’d prefer to keep room on my shelves for my three copies of The Hobbit and the copy of Ella, Enchanted that my mother got me years and years ago during her freelance stint at HarperCollins which I got signed years after. Instead of keeping books that cause me stress and make me sad I’m keeping my set of Chris Van Allsburg picture books, my multiple editions of Emma and Little Women and my full set of R. L. LaFevers ARCs.
It’s a process and what I keep or don’t keep changes constantly. But that’s how I’m thinking about the books I own now. Not so much as what I do or do not want, but the personal library I choose to curate to represent who and what I am at this moment.
That’s me. What about you? How do you curate your personal library? Tell me in the comments.