Committing Heresy: No More Books!

I have loads of books in my house
and there are overstuffed book shelves in most every room.
While I do try to live a not-so-consumptive lifestyle,
I’ve always given myself a free pass when it came to books;
there was never a whole lot of guilt when I bought more because
“I’m a reader and a writer, so what’s the big deal?”

Image from alltooeasy, morguefile.com

Image from alltooeasy, morguefile.com

Then a funny thing happened.

I got tired of seeing so many titles on my shelves that I hadn’t yet read.
Between buying books and checking out books from the library, I had no motivation to read what was already sitting there and, in some cases, had been patiently awaiting attention for years and years.

My new approach to books is that I may only read what’s already in my home.
So far I’ve read Spalding Gray’s Morning, Noon and Night and The Infinite Plan 
by Isabel Allende, two books that have sat on my shelves for so many years that
I cannot remember where and when I acquired them. I’m glad I read them, but will now
donate them to another reader and, in the process, create a little breathing space on my shelves and in my head. I’m currently reading and enjoying Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King.

So far it’s only three books, but I already feel lighter.
Also? Even though I’m currently not spending a dime in support of the publishing industry,
I feel as if I’m truly honoring books and authors because I’m being deliberate and thoughtful in what I read rather than living in a constant flurry of books that either require space on the shelves or must be read within a certain time frame to avoid late fees.

Moral of this story? My new heresy has resulted in guilt-free, stress-free reading, and I’m loving it.

9 thoughts on “Committing Heresy: No More Books!

  1. When we move 2 years ago, I donated about four boxes of books to Goodwill, and kept only my fav children’s and some of the classics… I just cleaned out the shelves again and gave two bags each to my kiddo’s teachers. Sometimes I do miss my big collection of books, but I feel a lot lighter.

    • I’ve donated bags of books over the years and it’s an excruciating process (although liberating once it’s done). I’m hoping this book-by-book approach will make it easier to part with some of them. We shall see . . .

      Hope you’re enjoying this rainy GREEN season and that your writing is going well, Steph.

  2. I give away books that I’ve gotten (from others) if I know I won’t read them…but I (usually) only buy books that I’ve already read and want to re-read or those by an author I always love. But as my kiddos get older, I suspect I will be getting rid of some of the books I’ve kept around for them to read (either as they read them and decide they don’t want them forever or as they don’t choose them in the first place). *sigh*

    • Wow, you’re quite disciplined about books. I wasn’t disciplined about acquiring them or donating them, and have such a hard time letting go. I’ve given away many over the years, and still, have oodles that should’ve been liberated a long time ago. I’m talking picture books from the library sale, books that never caught on with my kids but I still kinda like. Ah, well…

  3. Good for you, Tracy! Not to add another book to your pile, but have you ever read “Howard’s End Is on the Landing” by the novelist Susan Hill? For a full year, she read only books she found on her own shelves.

    We gave away close to 1000 books before we moved to England, but that was less than half the collection, and in the past 4 years we’ve slowly started to accumulate more. It’s hard for me to give any of them up, especially as public libraries here are fairly small, but I do box some up now and again and donate them or give them to friends. And I think I need to fill up another box before the summer is over.

    • Darn you, Amy! Tempting me with another title! 🙂 That sounds like a great book and maybe I’ll treat myself with it when I’ve finished reading what I have here. Or just possibly before that … HA.

      You gave away 1000 books?! Yowzer! That’s an awful lot of books. But I think you have a good reason to hold onto what you have if the library system is smaller than here. Giving books directly to friends is another feel-good part of the process, I think.

  4. Three years ago, I was in a similar place–but I was unable to stop acquiring new books, since I’m always seeing new ones I want to read. What I did instead was start keeping a log of how many “old” books I read, how many new ones I bring in, and how many of the new ones I read. Just the act of keeping track has made me more mindful about buying new stuff. I now borrow more from the library, make more of an effort to read what’s in my home already (or if it’s a new purchase, to read it sooner rather than let it become part of the books-in-waiting pile), and I have given away more–both books I have read and books I realize I was never going to read after all, so they should go to someone who will read them.

    I also ended a couple of journal subscriptions when I realized I wasn’t keeping up with them, and I’ve been reading the back issues.

    • That’s such a thoughtful process you have, Jenn. I like the accountability aspect and I’m thinking I’ll adopt something similar when I’ve gotten out from under much of what I have here already. Thanks for sharing that!

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